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VOL.  I. 









LATH     EXECUTIONER    OF     THE    COURT     OF    Ji:STICR     OF     PARIS. 

/JV    TWO    VOLUMES— VOL.   L 

IToitbon : 


FE3    61976 


In  presenting  this  English  version  of  the  condensed 
memoirs  of  Henry  Sanson  and  his  family,  a  few  pre- 
fatory remarks  from  the  Translator  are  necessary. 

Several  years  have  now  passed  since  this  work  was 
issued  in  French  in  Paris.  Its  appearance  excited  far 
more  curiosity  than  the  records  of  an  ordinary  execu- 
tioner could  have  commanded.  In  fact  the  author  was 
a  personage  in  his  own  way.  He  was  the  lineal  descend- 
ant of  a  race  of  headsmen  through  whose  hands  every 
State  victim,  as  well  as  every  common  criminal,  had  passed 
during  two  centuries.  They  had  exercised  their  functions 
for  nearly  two  hundred  years.  They  had  hung,  beheaded, 
quartered,  and  tortured  from  father  to  son  without  inter- 
ruption, and  the  social  position  of  the  first  of  the  race, 
previous  to  the  assumption  of  the  executioner's  office, 
had  placed  his  descendants  on  a  somewhat  higher  level 
than  the  men  belonging  to  the  bloody  profession.  It  was 
thought  by  all,  that  the  last  of  the  Sansons  could  not  but 
have  interesting  things  to  relate.     It  is  for  the  readers 


of  the  present  version  to  decide  whether  this  idea  was 

Howbeit,  these  memoirs  are  chiefly  conspicuous  for 
their  historical  interest.  This  alone  would  entitle  them 
to  a  peculiar  place.  They  certainly  cannot  be  classed  in 
the  literature  of  horrors,  and  the  Translator  may  be  per- 
mitted to  say  that,  had  his  opinion  been  different,  he 
would  not  have  put  his  pen  at  the  service  of  such  work. 
A  certain  amount  of  morbidness  is  obviously  inseparable 
from  a  book  of  such  a  kind  ;  but  this,  which  the  Trans- 
lator has  endeavoured  to  palliate,  is  redeemed  by  the 
constant  link  which  unites  the  dark  tales  Sanson  has  to 
unfold  with  historical  dramas. 

The  Translator  has  no  sympathy  for  Sanson  or  his 
book,  and  he  claims  none  for  him.  He  may  even  say, 
without  prejudicing  these  memoirs,  that  he  credits 
neither  the  Executioner's  emphatic  and  sentimental  ex- 
pressions of  hatred  for  the  principle  he  represents,  nor  the 
manifold  virtues  Sanson  ascribes  to  his  ancestors.  He 
finds,  as  everybody  must  do,  difificulty  in  believing  that 
an  individual  need  cut  heads  when  he  is  compelled  to 
do  so  neither  by  necessity  nor  by  law,  and  Sanson's 
lamentations  have  left  him  unshaken  in  his  belief. 

But  authenticity  may  justly  be  claimed  for  these 
memoirs.  After  proper  research  and  inquiry,  the 
Translator  has  no  reason  to  doubt  it.  Sanson  was  not 
a  profound  scholar,  but  he  knew  enough  to  hold  a  pen 


and  note  his  impressions  in  the  crude  style  in  which  the  ' 
French  version  is  indited.  That  the  Executioner  may 
have  received  assistance  is  possible,  though  the  uncouth- 
ness  of  his  work  argues  against  the  theory ;  that  the 
authorship  is  genuine,  at  least  in  spirit,  has  been  proved 
by  Sanson  himself,  who  on  several  occasions  publicly 
contradicted  reports  that  the  memoirs  published  under 
his  name  were  fictitious.  Whatever  opinions  may  be 
entertained  of  them,  they  are  inspired,  and  in  all  proba- 
bility written,  by  no  other  than  the  man  who  bore  the 
historical  name  of  Sanson. 

It  only  remains  for  the  Translator  to  state  that 
wherever  the  '  Recollections'  seemed  to  him  to  wander 
from  the  special  object  they  have  in  view,  he  has  not 
scrupled  to  abridge  them. 


On  March  i8,  1847,  I  returned  to  my  residence  from 
one  of  the  long  walks  of  which  I  have  always  been 
fond.  I  had  but  just  crossed  the  threshold  when  the 
porter  gave  me  a  letter. 

I  immediately  recognised  the  large  envelope  and 
seal  of  which  the  sight  had  even  sent  a  thrill  through 
my  frame.  I  took  the  ominous  message  with  a  trem- 
bling hand,  and  expecting  that  it  contained  one  of  those 
sinister  orders  I  was  bound  to  obey,  I  entered  my  house 
and  went  to  my  study,  where  I  broke  the  fatal  seal. 

It  was  My  Dismissal  ! 

A  strange  and  indefinable  sentiment  took  possession  of 
me.  I  raised  my  eyes  to  the  portraits  of  my  ancestors ; 
I  scanned  all  those  dark,  thoughtful  faces,  whereon  was 
depicted  the  very  despair  which  had  hitherto  haunted 
me.  I  looked  at  my  grandfather,  dressed  in  a  shooting 
costume,  leaning  on  his  gun  and  stroking  his  dog — per- 
haps the  only  friend  he  had.     I  looked  at  my  father, 


his  hat  in  his  hand,  and  clad  in  the  sable  garb  he  had 
ever  worn.  It  seemed  to  me  that  I  was  informing  all 
these  dumb  witnesses  that  there  was  an  end  of  the  curse 
which  had  weighed  on  their  race.  Then,  ringing  the 
bell,  I  asked  for  a  basin  and  water;  and  alone  with 
God  who  sees  in  our  hearts  I  solemnly  laved  those 
hands  which  the  blood  of  my  brethren  was  henceforth 
never  to  soil. 

I  then  repaired  to  my  mother's  apartment.  I  can 
still  see  her  in  her  velvet  armchair,  from  which  the  poor 
old  woman  seldom  rose.  I  placed  on  her  lap  the  message 
from  the  Minister  of  Justice.  She  read  it,  and  turning 
towards  me  her  kindly  eyes  : 

*  Blessed  be  this  day,  my  son  ! '  she  said.  *■  It  frees 
you  from  the  inheritance  of  your  fathers.' 

And  as  I  remained  speechless  with  such  emotion  as 
I  could  not  control,  she  added  : 

'  It  must  have  come  to  this  sooner  or  later.  You 
are  the  last  of  your  race.  Heaven  has  only  given  you 
daughters  ;  I  was  always  thankful  for  it.' 

On  the  following  day  eighteen  competitors  were 
postulating  for  my  bloody  functions ;  there  was  no 
difficulty  in  finding  a  substitute. 

As  for  myself  I  had  but  one  course  to  follow.  I 
hastened  to  sell  my  ancient  residence,  full  of  sad  re- 
collections, wherein  three  out  of  seven  generations  had 
lived  under  opprobrium  and  ignominy.     My  horses,  my 


carriage — which  bore  as  a  coat  of  arms  a  cracked  bell — 
I  also  got  rid  of.  In  short,  I  gave  up  all  that  could 
remind  me  of  the  past ;  and  then,  shaking  the  dust  from 
my  feet,  I  bade  an  eternal  farewell  to  the  hereditary- 
abode  in  which,  as  my  ancestors,  I  had  never  tasted 
peace  in  day  and  repose  in  night. 

But  for  the  advanced  age  and  the  infirmities  of  my 
mother,  I  should  have  gone  to  the  New  World.  It  was 
my  chief  wish  to  place  the  Ocean  between  me  and  the 
country  where  I  had  fulfilled  such  dismal  functions. 
America,  with  its  new  manners,  its  virgin  forests,  its 
immense  rivers,  of  which  I  had  read  in  the  works 
of  Chateaubriand  and  Fenimore  Cooper,  was  the  land  I 
longed  to  see.  It  seemed  to  me  that  by  renouncing 
a  name  that  had  acquired  such  unwelcome  celebrity, 
I  could  turn  a  new  leaf  of  the  book  of  life  on  setting 
foot  on  American  soil.  But  I  was  bound  by  duty  to 
abide  in  Paris.  My  aged  mother  would  have  insisted 
on  accompanying  me,  and  her  strength  must  have 
been  unequal  to  the  fatigues  of  a  sea  voyage.  I  there- 
fore remained  with  her  to  watch  her  and  close  her  eyes 
which  had  shed  so  many  bitter  tears. 

I  was  called  upon  only  too  soon  to  perform  this 
sacred  duty.  Less  than  three  years  after  my  removal 
from  the  office  of  public  executioner  I  had  the  grief  to 
witness  the  death  of  the  worthy  and  venerable  woman 
who  had  given  me,  besides  life,  the  benefit  of  her  wise 


advice  and  the  example  of  her  virtues.  This  was  a  sad 
blow  for  me,  and  it  lay  on  my  mind  a  long  time.  Time 
wiled  away  ;  I  became  too  advanced  in  years  to  cultivate 
the  illusion  of  a  new  life.  I  was  fain  to  give  up  my 
scheme  of  emigration. 

However,  I  hastened  to  quit  Paris,  and  I  made  choice 
of  a  retreat  so  safe  and  so  secluded  that  nothing  ever 
came  to  remind  me  of  the  melancholy  occupation  of  my 
former  life,  I  have  lived  there  for  twelve  years  under  a 
name  which  is  not  mine,  reaping  with  something  like 
secret  shame  the  friendship  and  good-will  which  I  con- 
stantly fear  to  see  dispelled  by  the  discovery  of  my 
former  avocations.  But  in  this  obscure  shelter  whither 
I  had  fled  from  my  recollections,  the  past  recurs  to  my 
memory  with  extraordinary  lucidity ;  and,  old  as  I  am 
now,  weary  of  a  bleak  and  vain  life,  I  have  yielded  to 
the  strongest  of  temptations,  that  of  writing  the  book  of 
which  these  pages  form  the  preface. 

Idleness  and  solitude  are  no  safe  resorts  for  a  morbid 
imagination.  Constantly  troubled  with  thoughts  bear- 
ing on  the  predestination  of  my  birth,  on  the  first  occu- 
pation of  my  life,  my  mind  wandered  back  to  the  time 
of  the  adventure,  to  be  told  hereafter,  by  which  a 
bequest,  which,  thank  Heaven,  I  have  transmitted  to 
none  of  mine,  came  into  my  family.  I  remembered  the 
line  of  ancestors  among  whom  even  a  child  of  seven 
years  was  bound  to  the  scaflbld.     My  great-grandfather, 


Charles  Jean-Baptiste,  born  in  Paris  on  April  19,  17 19, 
succeeded  to  his  father  on  October  2,  1726;  and  as  so 
young  a  child  could  not  possibly  discharge  the  functions 
of  executioner,  the  Parliament  supplied  him  with  an 
assistant  and  instructor  named  Prudhomme,  but  ordered 
that  the  child  should  sanction  executions  by  his  pre- 
sence. A  strange  thing,  indeed,  was  this  regency  in  the 
history  of  the  scaffold. 

I  thought  of  my  grandfather,  who  had  been  com- 
pelled to  wield  the  axe  and  the  knife  on  the  head  of 
King,  Queen,  nobles,  and  revolutionnaires  during  the 
French  Revolution.  I  had  seen,  in  my  youth,  the  hale 
figure  of  the  old  man.  He  had  written  a  daily  record 
of  his  terrible  occupations,  thus  continuing  the  register 
in  which  my  ancestors  had  inscribed  the  doings  of  our 

In  reading  those  singular  annals,  which,  in  my  turn, 
I  continued,  and  which  begin  by  the  Chamber  of  Torture 
and  the  pondre  de  succession^  then  dwell  on  the  saturn- 
alias of  the  Regency  and  of  Louis  XV.'s  reign,  and  come 
to  a  conclusion  in  our  century  after  passing  through  the 
French  Revolution,  I  have  found  curious  recollections 
at  almost  every  page,  anecdotes  of  the  time,  accounts  of 
traditions  carefully  preserved  in  my  family,  a  chaos  ot 
illustrious  and  abject  names — the  Count  de  Horn 
between  Poulailler  and  Cartouche ;  Lally-Tollendal, 
and  the  Chevalier  de  la  Barre  next  to  Damiens ;  and 


then,  with  a  king  as  leader,  the  cortege  of  the  victims  of 
the  Revolution.  I  was  reminded  of  my  conversations 
with  my  father  concerning  the  Infernal  Machine  devised 
under  the  first  Empire,  the  conspiracy  of  Georges 
Cadoudal,  the  Companions  of  Jehu,  tlie  Chauffeurs,  &c.; 
and  I  also  bore  in  mind  the  dramas  in  which  it  was 
my  lot  to  take  a  part,  the  condemnation  of  the  four 
Sergeants  of  La  Rochelle,  that  of  Louvel  and  of  all  the 
disciples  of  Jacques  Clement,  and  Ravaillac,  who  vainly 
attempted  to  murder  Louis  Philippe.  There  was  also 
the  execution  of  Lesurques,  the  victim  of  a  judicial 
mistake,  and  a  more  recent  gang  of  the  worst  class  of 
criminals-,  Papavoine,  Castaing,  Lacenaire,  Soufflard, 
Poulmann.  It  struck  me  that  in  all  this  there  was 
matter  for  a  work  whereof  the  interest  and  utility  might 
in  some  degree  conceal  the  individuality  of  the  author. 

I  have  therefore  written  the  present  book,  append- 
ing to  it  a  sketch  of  punishments  in  France,  and  an 
account  of  the  office  of  Executioner.  This  book  I  now 
publish.  If  it  had  for  purpose  to  furnish  food  for  the 
unhealthy  curiosity  of  people  who  would  seek  emotions 
in  a  kind  of  written  photograph  of  the  scenes  that  take 
place  on  the  scaffold,  it  should  be  received  with  loath- 
someness ;  but  I  would  rather  burn  my  writings  than 
follow  a  course  so  contrary  to  my  object.  P'ar  from 
this,  I  have  been  actuated  in  the  course  of  my  work  by 
an  abhorrence   for  the    punishment   denounced  by  so 


many  eloquent  voices,  the  punishment  of  which  I  have 
had  the  misfortune  to  be  the  Hving  impersonation. 
And  now  if  it  is  asked  how,  with  such  sentiments,  I 
could  discharge  so  long  my  functions  of  headsman,  I 
will  merely  refer  the  reader  to  the  singular  circumstances 
attendant  on  my  birth.  When  I  was  yet  a  boy  it  was 
my  bane  to  help  my  father ;  I  was,  as  it  were,  brought 
up  in  the  profession  of  my  ancestors,  and  taught  that  I 
must  abide  by  it  as  a  matter  of  course,  The  sword  of 
the  law  was  transmitted  from  generation  to  generation 
in  my  family,  as  the  sceptre  in  royal  races.  Could  I 
select  another  calling  without  insulting  my  family;  and 

the  old  age  of  jn^jfatherj ^I  retained  my  office  so  long 

as  was  consistent  with  my  wish  to  spare  the  feelings  of 
my  dearest  kinsmen ;  and  as  soon  as  I  could  do  so  I 
gladly  gave  them  up.  All  that  I  care  for  now  is  that 
in  a  short  lapse  of  time  those  who  read  these  pages  ma}^ 
say,  in  putting  down  the  book,  that  it  is  the  will  of 
capital  punishment  written  by  the  last  Executioner, 


VOL.   I. 




v^^'   Origin  of  my  Family           .        .        .        .        .        .  i 

xll.     Charles  Sanson  de  Lonval 4 

.  Jji.     Arrival  in  Paris 22 

I'V.     Trial  and  Execution  of  Mdme,  Tiquet        .        .    .  27 

1^^.     Pamphlets  under  Louis  XIV.     .                 ...  40 

yrr    Cellamare's  Conspiracy 51 

^Vfl.     Count  de  Horn .         -63 

uV^III.     Cartouche 76 

'IX.     The  Accomplices  of  Cartouche         .        .        .        •  fo 

X,     Damiens  the  Regicide 98 

XT.     Execution  of  Damiens ic6 

XII.     Lally-Tollendal 115 

XIII.  The  Chevalier  de  la  Barre 131 

XIV.  The  Executioner  and  the  Parliament         ,        ,    .  141 
.  XV.     Family  Anecdotes 160 



XVI.     The  Abb^  Gomart 171 

XVII.  Advent  of  Charles  Henri  Sanson         .        .        .183 

\JOTII.     The  Necklace  Affair 189 

1^    XIX.  The  Auto-da-F^  of  Versailles        ....  202 

I  XX.  Marie  Anne  Jugier,  my  Grandmother       .        .    ,  214 

'    XXI.     Action  against  the  Press 221 

I  XXII.  The  Marquis  de  Favras        .        .      '.        .•       .    .  237 

\)CXIIL  A  Petition  to  the  National  Assembly          .        .  242 

N^XIV.     The  Guillotine 255 

XXV.  The  Tribunal  of  August  17,   1792  .        .        .         .  264 

XXVL     The  Death  of  Louis  XVI 272 





My  family  came  from  one  of  the  most  ancient  stocks  in 
France.  I  heard  from  my  grandfather  that,  having  visited 
Milan,  he  discovered  in  the  Ambrosian  Library  a 
number  of  documents  in  which  a  Sanson  was  mentioned 
as  being  Seneschal  of  the  Duke  of  Normandy,  better 
known  as  Robert  the  Devil,  and  as  having  joined  a 
Crusade  to  the  Holy  Land.  My  grandfather  was  ex- 
tremely fond  of  historical  and  archaeological  studies  ; 
he  assured  us  that*  all  the  ancient  chroniclers  whose 
writings  he  had  read,  Villehardouin,  Guy,  Martial 
dAuvergne,  Rigaud  and  Joinville,  designated  the 
Sansons  as  bannerets  of  the  Dukes  of  Normandy;  that 
they  had  seen  not  only  the  Crusades,  but  the  Conquest 
of  England  and  the  expeditions  of  Robert  Guiscard 
and  his  sons,  when  these  heroic  Neustrian  adventurers 
fought  for  the  Pope  against  the  Saracens,  and  founded 
the  principalities  and  kingdoms  of  Southern  Italy.  This 
is  a  legend  ;  and  as  no  family,  I  may  almost  say  no 
VOL.  I.  B 


nation,  can  possibly  explain  the  mystery  of  its  origin 
otherwise  than  by  hypothesis  and  conjecture,  I  hasten 
to  enter  the  more  trustworthy  demesnes  of  reality. 

In  the  fifteenth  century  my  family  was  established 
at  Abbeville,  and  held  a  most  honourable  place  in  the 
history  of  the  town.  If  I  admit  the  accuracy  of  my 
grandfather's  speculations,  it  seems  certain  that  the 
Sansons  were  somewhat  below  their  former  splendour. 
At  the  time  they  belonged  to  the  high  and  rich  bour- 
geoisie, which  was  a  link  between  the  nobility  and 
the  Tiers  Etat,  and  possessed,  like  the  former,  the 
privilege  of  serving  the  king,  as  officers,  while  the 
latter  was  deprived  of  municipal  dignities  and  honours. 
Several  Sansons  filled  the  office  of  Echevin  of  Abbe- 
ville. One  of  the  members  of  the  family  served  Henry 
IV.  throughout  all  his  wars,  and  he  w^as  seriously 
wounded  at  Fontaine-Frangalse,  where  the  King  of 
Beam  himself  was  well-nigh  captured  and  slain  by  the 
Spanish  cavalry.  When  the  Peace  of  Vervins  put  an 
end  to  civil  and  foreign  strife,  this  brave  companion 
of  the  great  Henry  returned  to  his  native  town,  and 
until  his  death,  which  occurred  on  May  31,  1593,  was 
honoured  with  the  esteem  and  veneration  of  his  fellow- 
citizens.  His  grandson  was  one  of  the  most  remarkable 
men  of  the  first  part  of  the  seventeenth  century.  His 
name  was  Nicolas  Sanson.  He  may  be  said  to  have 
been  one  of  the  fathers  of  modern  geography.  Born  in 
1600,  this  illustrious  man  already  enjoyed  European 
iame,  when  Cardinal  de  Richelieu,  who  was  no  man  to 
leave  in  a  provincial  town  one  who  could  help  him  in. 


his  vast  projects  of  transatlantic  colonisation,  assigned 
him  a  suitable  pension,  and  honoured  him  with  par- 
ticular affection.  Louis  XIII.  also  appreciated  the 
merit  of  the  geographer,  and  Nicolas  Sanson  received 
many  tokens  of  royal  favour.  The  seductions  of  the 
Court,  and  Nicolas  Sanson's  connection  with  the  most 
exalted  personages  of  the  time,  often  retained  him  in 
Paris  ;  but  the  want  of  solitude  and  quiet  frequently  led 
him  back  to  Abbeville.  In  1638,  when  Louis  XIII. 
entered  this  last  town,  he  declined  the  offer  of  a  resting 
place  worthy  of  royalty,  and  preferred  partaking  of  his 
geographer's  hospitality.  A  King  of  France,  a  Bourbon, 
slept  for  two  nights  beneUth  the  roof  of  a  family  which 
later  was  to  bear  a  hand  on  another  Bourbon  in  the 
name  of  a  revolutionary  law.  A  singular  hazard  indeed  ! 
Charles  Sanson  de  Longval,  who  became  the  first  of 
the  branch  whereof  I  am  the  last  representative,  was  the 
lineal  descendant  of  Nicolas  Sanson.  I  have  now  done 
with  those  of  my  ancestors  who  were  men  and  citizens. 
It  is  time  to  speak  of  those  who  were  headsmen. 


CHAPTER   11. 


Charles  Sanson  was  born  at  Abbeville  in  1635.  His 
father  and  mother  died  when  he  was  still  in  the  cradle. 
He  had  a  brother,  Jean-Baptiste  Sanson,  who  was  born 
in  1624,  and  was  therefore  eleven  years  older  than  he. 
Their  uncle,  Pierre  Brossier,  sire  of  Limeuse,  took  the 
orphans  under  his  protection.  His  kindness  and  tender- 
ness greatly  alleviated  the  melancholy  of  their  situation. 
He  had  a  daughter  named  Colombe  ;  and  he  gave  an 
equal  share  of  affection  to  all  three.  Colombe  Brossier 
and  Charles  Sanson  were  nearly  of  the  same  age.  The 
intimacy  of  childhood  made  the  ties  of  blood  still  faster 
and  gave  rise  to  mutual  attachment.  Their  friendship 
became  love.  Neither  Pierre  Brossier  nor  Jean-Baptiste 
Sanson  had  any  notion  of  the  feelings  of  Charles  and 
Colombe.  And  on  a  Sunday  morning  the  former, 
having  announced  that  he  had  just  obtained  for  Jean- 
Baptiste  the  office  of  Councillor  at  the  Court  of  Abbe- 
ville, informed  his  daughter  that  the  new  councillor  sued 
her  hand,  and  that  he  (Pierre  Brossier)  highly  approved 
of  the  match — in  fact,  that  this  marriage  had  been  one 


of  his  long  cherished  projects,  and^  that  the  sooner  it 
was  accompHshed  the  better. 

In  those  times,  more  than  in  ours,  a  father's  will  was 
law,  and  no  other  course  but  to  submit  was  left 
to  Colombe  Brossier.  Much  against  her  wishes  she  was 
wedded  to  Jean-Baptiste  a  short  time  after.  As  to 
Charles  Sanson,  his  grief  was  so  deep  that  he  resolved 
to  leave  Europe.  He  left  his  relation,  went  to  Roche- 
fort,  and  embarked  for  Quebec,  where  he  was  received 
by  one  of  his  father's  sisters,  who  resided  there.  His 
affection,  however,  seems  to  have  resisted  the  test  of 
travels  and  novel  sights,  for  he  constantly  refused  to  see 
again  his  native  country,  and  only  returned  to  France 
after  the  death  of  his  brother  Jean-Baptiste,  and  of  his 
wife  Colombe,  which  occurred  a  few  years  after  his  de- 
parture. Charles  Sanson  was  by  this  time  familiar  with 
almost  every  part  of  the  world ;  he  had  seen  the  West 
Indies,  the  whole  of  America  and  the  Levant ;  but  his 
disappointed  affection  had  brought  on  a  dark  mood  and 
a  bitterness  which  became  chronic,  and  he  regarded  the 
world  in  anything  but  a  sympathetic  disposition. 

Shortly  after  his  return  to  France,  Charles  Sanson 
betook  himself  to  arms,  the  military  profession  being 
generally  adopted  by  gentlemen  of  his  station.  He 
bought  a  commission  in  the  regiment  of  the  Marquis 
de  Laboissiere,  took  part  in  the  battle  of  Gravelines  and 
other  encounters,  and,  under  his  full  name  of  Charles  de 
Longval,  acquired  in  his  regiment  a  reputation  for  great 
proficiency  and  courage.  It  was  in  1662  that  happened 
the  strange  adventure  which  led  to  his  falling  from  his 


high  position  to  the  degrading  functions  he  transmitted 
to  his  descendants.  I  will  now  let  him  speak  for  him- 
self, and  give  his  manuscript  account  with  its  primitive 
orthography  and  roughness. 

Manuscript  of  Charles  Sanson} 

God,  in  His  infinite  goodness,  measured  on  our 
shoulders  the  cross  He  wished  us  to  bear ;  there  is 
no  misfortune,  however  heavy,  to  which  one  cannot  be 
reconciled  ;  and  what  at  first  appears  to  us  as  impos- 
sible for  a  man  to  accomplish  as  it  is  for  him  to  swallow 
all  the  waters  of  the  ocean,  comes  to  pass  by  the  mere 
strength  of  habit.  After  entering  into  rebellion  against^ 
my  fate,  I  have  been  led  to  suffer  patiently  the  evil  I 
did  not  deserve  as  well  as  the  consequences  of  my  im- 
prudence, praying  that  my  death  should  be  less  tainted 
than  my  life.  But  although  children  only  subsist  by 
the  will  of  their  parents,  although  they  owe  to  them  life 
and  education,  I  apprehend  that  mine,  before  the  sin- 
gular difference  they  must  find  between  their  existence 
and  that  which  they  had  a  right  to  hope  for  at  my 
hands,  will  murmur  against  their  father ;  and  before 
asking  for  God's  mercy,  I  wish  to  confess  my  sins,  and 
to  state  the  reasons  that  led  me  to  adopt  the  miserable 
profession  of  executioner,  so  that  they  may  forgive  me  if 
I  deserve  forgiveness  ;  and  on  Thursday,  the  eleventh  day 
of  December,  in  the  year  of  our  Lord  one  thousand  six 
hundred  and  ninety-three,  have  I  begun  this  confession. 

*  This  singular  document  was  written  in  archaic  French. 


My  greatest  misfortune  was  always  to  give  to  my 
passions  supreme  control  over  my  will,  and  thus  to 
render  myself  unworthy  of  the  indulgence  of  the  Lord, 
who,  nevertheless,  attempted  more  than  once  to  guard 
me  against  the  abyss  whither  I  was  running  headlong. 

A  great  affliction  befell  me  in  my  youth ;  but  far 
from  struggling  against  it,  and  counteracting  it  by  reason, 
penance  and  prayer,  I  found  so  much  satisfaction  in 
retaining  the  recollection  of  a  passionate  love  that  I 
would  rather  have  given  up  my  life  than  the  remem- 
brance of  my  folly  ;  and  thus  I  opened  my  mind  to  all 
the  violent  resolutions  it  pleased  my  heart  to  dictate 
to  it. 

In  the  year  1662  I  was  a  lieutenant  in  the  regiment 
of  Monsieur  le  Marquis  de  Laboissiere,  which,  after 
taking  part  in  the  campaign  undertaken  in  1658  under 
Monsieur  le  Vicomte  de  Turenne,  in  the  course  of 
which  Bergues,  Furnes  and  Graveline  were  taken,  was 
quartered  in  the  town  of  Dieppe. 

In  the  month  of  July  of  the  year  1662  the  help  of 
God  had  been  very  apparent  in  my  favour ;  but  while 
the  Lord  was  freeing  me  from  a  dangerous  peril  for  my 
soul,  the  eternal  enemy  of  our  salvation  was  leading  me 
into  another  misadventure. 

One  day  my  life  was  much  imperilled  by  a  fall  from 
my  horse.  I  was  carried  to  the  abode  of  a  poor  man 
who  lived  in  a  house  called  the  Clos-Mauduit,  situate 
outside  the  walls  of  the  town  of  Dieppe,  beyond  the 
cemetery,  on  the  road  of  Neufchastel.  This  man  behaved 
to  me  as  the  good  Samaritan ;  he  washed  and  dressed 


my  wounds,  and  only  sent  me  away  when  I  was  cured. 
But  I  caught  in  his  house  an  illness  more  serious  than 
that  which  had  brought  me  thither  ;  I  left  it  enamoured 
with  a  girl  named  Marguerite,  who  was  my  host's  only 

At  first  I  tried  not  to  think  of  her.  Although  the 
real  profession  of  Marguerite's  father  was  not  known  to 
me,  it  was  obvious  that  he  was  of  low  condition  ;  and 
being  unable  to  marry  the  girl,  I  could  not  think  of 
harming  the  daughter  of  a  man  who  had  been  so  kind 
to  me.  But  the  intentions  of  men  are  mere  phantoms, 
and  in  spite  of  myself,  I  beheld  night  and  day  the  image 
of  the  creature  I  upbraided  myself  for  thinking  of. 

Soon  after  this,  one  of  my  cousins,  named  Paul 
Bertauld,  came  to  Dieppe  on  business  matters,  being 
one  of  those  who  held  the  French  possessions  of  India 
before  the  king,  our  sire,  bought  them  for  the  benefit  of 
the  country.  Although  I  disliked  men  on  account  of 
the  misfortunes  I  had  suffered  on  their  account,  and  I 
preferred  solitude  to  their  society,  I  was  very  friendly 
to  Paul  Bertauld,  whom  I  had  known  as  a  boy  in 
the  town  of  Quebec,  when  I  went  there  on  the  king's 
vessels.  Now,  although  Paul  knew  not  the  real  reason 
of  my  melancholy  and  sullen  humour,  he  tried  to  amuse 
me,  and  to  find  recreation  for  my  behoof,  both  in  his 
company  and  in  that  of  a  certain  M.  Valvins  de  Blignac, 
who,  like  me,  held  a  lieutenancy  in  the  regiment  of  the 
Marquis  de  Laboissiere,  and  w^as  a  fine  swordsman  and 
a  merry  companion. 

One  autumn  day,  Vv^hile  we  were  dining  together  on 


the  sea-side,  in  the  tavern  of  Isaac  Crocheteu,  my  cousin 
Paul  jocosely  declared  that  before  a  month  elapsed  he 
would  have  for  mistress  the  prettiest  girl  in  the  town  of 
Dieppe  and  its  suburbs.  M.  de  Blignac,  who  was  by 
nature  a  great  flatterer,  and  who  willingly  indulged 
those  whom  he  could  cheat  and  who  paid  for  his  revels, 
confirmed  Paul  Bertauld's  assurance,  as  if  he  knew  the 
girl.  Upon  this  I  felt  a  sudden  pang,  and  my  heart 
began  to  throb,  for  I  had  remarked  that  my  cousin  wore 
the  flower  which  bore  the  name  of  my  beloved,  and 
I  suspected  that  he  did  so  in  her  honour.  It  was  folly 
in  me,  since,  in  result  of  my  first  love,  I  had  vowed  only 
to  love  God  ;  neither  had  I  seen  Marguerite  since  my 
departure  from  her  father's  house ;  and  moreover, 
Dieppe  and  its  suburbs  contained  more  than  one  girl 
called  Marguerite,  to  whom  my  cousin's  compliment 
might  apply.  But  yielding,  as  it  were,  to  a  stronger 
will  than  mine,  I  left  the  table,  and,  pretending  that  I 
had  business  at  the  town  castle,  I  left  my  companions, 
took  the  Braacquemont  path,  and  arrived  at  the  Clos- 
Mauduit,  on  the  road  of  Neufchastel,  where  I  had  not 
been  since  the  accident  that  had  befallen  me. 

When  I  saw  Marguerite's  house  through  the  trees 
of  the  garden,  I  had  a  mind  to  return  ;  but,  although 
I  duly  censured  myself,  I  could  not  help  advancing. 
I  had  seen  her  aged  father  twice  ;  after  curing  me,  he 
had  forbidden  me  to  return  to  his  house,  with  all  sorts 
of  violent  threats,  which  I  attributed  to  his  apprehen- 
sion that  I  should  make  love  to  his  pretty  daughter. 
I    therefore    avoided    the    door,    for    fear    he    should 


make  her  pay  for  my  indiscretion  ;  I  went  round  the 
hedge,  and,  catching  sight  of  her  in  the  garden,  I  jumped 
over  the  enclosure  and  ran  up  to  her.  Falsehoods  are 
easily  devised  and  told  by  lovers.  So  I  told  the  girl 
that,  being  unable  to  thank  her  father  on  account  of  his 
roughness,  I  wished  to  thank  her  in  his  place  for  his 
former  kindness ;  and  then,  without  any  preparation, 
and  as  if  I  could  not  hasten  too  much  to  speak  out,  so 
fearful  was  I  of  being  forestalled  by  some  one  else,  I 
confessed  my  love  to  her. 

The  girl  blushed,  but  was  not  angry  ;  but  I  soon 
perceived  that  her  eyes  were  full  of  tears,  and  as  I  asked 
her  what  made  her  cry,  she  replied  that  I  could  not  love 
her,  that  my  affection  must  bring  down  heavy  calamities 
upon  my  head  ;  and  she  ordered  and  beseeched  me  to  go 
away,  as  her  father  might  come  out  and  see  us. 

Nevertheless,  I  remained  with  her  for  some  time, 
repeating  what  I  had  said  before ;  and  I  went  back  to 
town  much  disturbed.  But  I  returned  to  the  Clos- 
Mauduit  on  the  following  day,  and  I  henceforth  paid 
her  regular  visits.  Sometimes  I  could  not  see  her ; 
either  she  was  walking  with  her  father  in  the  garden, 
or  the  servant  was  there,  so  that  I  was  obliged  to  keep 
back  and  look  at  her  from  a  distance.  Sometimes, 
however,  she  was  alone,  and  however  short  our  con- 
versation I  always  went  away  more  in  love  with  Mar- 
guerite. And  in  truth  this,  my  second  folly,  trans- 
scended  the  first  one  in  vehemence.  It  was  in  vain  that 
I  blamed  myself ;  in  vain  that  I  sought  strength  to  resist 
in  the  recollection  of  my  former  lady-love. 


Marguerite  in  no  way  encouraged  my  affection. 
The  warmer  it  became  the  more  she  implored  me  to 
leave  her.  One  day  I  tried  to  steal  a  kiss  from  her  ; 
she  was  so  angry  that  I  obtained  her  forgiveness  with 
difficulty.  Of  course  I  had  forgotten  my  cousin  Paul 
and  his  boast. 

One  evening,  however,  as  I  was  drinking  with  M.  de 
Blignac,  who  was  well-nigh  tipsy,  and  I  was  laughing  at 
him,  and  telling  him  that  he  could  only  cut  a  sorry 
figure  in  Paul's  love  adventure,  if  it  happened,  he 
winked  knowingly  and  replied  that,  thanks  to  him,  my 
cousin  had  obtained  the  good  graces  of  the  prettiest  girl 
that  could  be  seen.  As,  to  my  idea,  none  could  be 
prettier  than  Marguerite,  I  became  uneasy,  and  assailed 
him  with  questions.  He  at  first  refused  to  answer ; 
but  as  among  the  bad  qualities  of  the  Chevaher  de 
Blignac  that  of  being  the  greatest  prattler  in  the  world 
could  be  reckoned,  his  tongue  soon  began  to  wag.  He 
told  me  that  the  girl  was  unapproachable  either  for 
love  or  for  money,  and  that,  by  his  advice,  M.  Paul 
Bertauld  had  bought  a  sleeping  draught  at  the  apothe- 
cary's, and  that  it  was  to  be  divided  on  that  very 
evening  by  the  valet,  whom  they  had  bribed,  between 
the  maid  and  the  beautiful  girl.  He  added  that  the 
father  and  the  valet  would  be  away  all  night,  and  that 
the  maiden  would  thus  remain  in  my  cousin's  absolute 

If  the  tower  of  the  church  of  Saint  Jacques  had 
fallen  on  my  head,  I  could  not  have  been  more  appalled 
than  I  was  by  the  words  of  M.  de  Blignac.     I   rose  so 


violently  that  I  overturned  the  table  and  the  glasses. 
My  hat  and  sword  were  on  a  stool.  I  only  took  the 
sword,  and  unsheathing  it,  I  ran  madly  through  the 
town.  By  what  instinct  I  was  guided  I  know  not,  but  I 
made  my  way  through  the  dark  night  as  unerringly  as 
if  it  had  been  broad  daylight,  and  after  running  for  half 
an  hour  I  saw  a  light  through  the  trees  of  the  Clos. 
At  the  thought  that  it  might  be  dawning  on  the  poor 
girl's  disgrace,  I  felt  so  much  rage  and  hatred  that  I 
could  have  battled  against  twenty.  As  I  came  close 
to  the  house,  I  saw  the  shadow  of  a  man  gliding 
along  the  wall.  The  man  took  to  flight  when  he  saw 
me,  but  I  was  soon  up  with  him,  and  I  ascertained  that 
M.  de  Blignac  had  said  the  truth,  and  that  the  fugitive 
w^as  no  other  than  my  cousin, 

I  took  him  aside,  and,  filled  with  anger  and  grief,  I 
bitterly  upbraided  him  for  his  dishonest  conduct,  show- 
ing him  that  it  was  a  crime  to  lead  to  perdition  a  girl  as 
respectable  as  she  was  poor,  and  that  by  stealing  her  virtue 
he  was  taking  all  that  she  possessed.  My  cousin  hung  his 
head  and  was  silent.  If; we  had  remained  alone,  I 
doubt  not  but  that  I  could  have  made  him  repent,  for 
his  vices  were  rather  due  to  youth  and  evil  associations 
than  to  nature.  Unfortunately  the  appearance  of  M.  de 
Blignac  marred  my  lecture.  The  latter  when  I  left  him 
had  some  suspicion  of  what  was  going  to  take  place, 
and  he  arrived  in  great  hurry.  I  changed  my  tone,  and 
speaking  to  him  I  indignantly  told  him  what  I  thought 
of  his  conduct,  adding  that  ever  since  M.  Bertauld's 
arrival  he  had  tried  to  lead  him  into  evil,  inciting  him 


to  gamble,  drink  and  misbehave  himself  in  all  kinds  of 

M.  de  Blignac  answered  by  laughing  at  my  cousin 
for  suffering  my  remonstrances  ;  and  he  swore  in  his  own 
bantering  way  that  if  I  acted  thus  it  was  because  I  had 
my  own  views  concerning  the  girl.  He  added  that  I 
should  apologise  for  what  I  had  first  said,  or  that  he 
would  force  my  words  down  my  throat ;  and,  drawing 
his  sword,  he  assailed  me,  calling  on  my  cousin  to  do 
the  same,  and  that  the  girl  should  be  theirs  still.  Either 
love  must  have  muddled  his  brain,  or  the  taunts  and 
mockery  of  M.  de  Blignac  must  have  stung  him  to  the 
quick,  for  M.  Paul  Bertauld  was  shameless  enough  to 
draw  his  sword  against  his  relative  and  friend,  and  to 
charge  me  while  his  companion  was  doing  the  same.  I 
did  my  best  against  such  odds,  retreating  towards  the 
trees.  While  I  was  manoeuvring  thus,  however,  M.  de 
Blignac  made  a  desperate  lunge,  which  I  parried,  and 
before  he  could  recover  his  balance  I  wounded  him  so 
seriously  in  the  wrist,  that  his  sword  dropped  to  the 
ground,  and,  having  set  my  foot  upon  it,  I  was  enabled 
to  take  it  and  throw  it  far  away.  On  the  other  hand 
M.  Paul  Bertauld  had  been  wounded,  and  I  had  also 
been  struck  in  the  shoulder.  Fortunately  my  two  an- 
tagonists declined  to  continue  the  duel,  and  retired  say- 
ing that  it  would  be  daylight  on  the  next  day,  and 
they  could  then  begin  again  without  fear  of  getting 
blinded.  Although  I  saw  them  retreat,  I  nevertheless 
resolved  to  guard  the  house  all  night  for  fear  M.  de 
Blignac,    treacherous   and   perverse   as  he  was,  should 


advise  M.  Paul  Bertauld  to  return  and  pursue  his  original 
design  during  my  absence. 

At  midnight,  hearing  no  stir  in  the  house,  I  began  to 
apprehend  that  the  sleeping  draught  had  killed  the  girl 
and  the  servant ;  and  this  fear  was  the  cause  of  my  loss. 
The  rascally  valet,  according  to  his  agreement  with 
Bertauld,  had  left  the  door  ajar.  I  entered  the  house, 
and  went  to  the  poor  child's  room.  Thereupon  I  confess 
with  great  shame  and  contrition  that  I  forgot  all  the 
good  advice,  counsels  and  lessons  I  had  just  given  to 
my  cousin.  When  I  saw  the  girl  whom  I  loved,  she 
appeared  to  me  so  beautiful  that  my  good  intentions 
vanished  like  smoke.  I  was  neither  wiser  nor  more  dis- 
creet than  he  would  have  been,  and  I  committed  the 
crime  for  which  I  had  upbraided  him  so  bitterly. 

May  God  forgive  me  in  another  world,  since  I  suffer 
in  this  one  for  my  sin  ! 

On  the  next  day,  M.  Paul  Bertauld's  servant  brought 
me  a  message  from  his  master,  requesting  my  at- 
tendance on  the  Place  du  Puits-Sale.  Inferring  that 
he  wished  to  call  me  out,  I  took  my  sword  and  followed 
the  servant.  There  was  a  numerous  attendance  on  the 
Place,  and  I  was  surprised  that  M.  Bertauld  had  chosen 
such  a  spot  to  fight  a  duel.  When  I  met  him,  however, 
he  showed  neither  spite  nor  rancour  for  what  had  oc- 
curred. Far  from  this,  he  offered  me  his  hand,  which  I 
refused  to  take,  remembering  how  he  had  joined  M.  de 
Blignac  in  an  unfair  encounter.  Upon  this,  he  showed 
me  a  scaffold  which  was  erected  in  the  centre  of  the  public 
place.    He  invited  me  to  look  in  that  direction,  which 


having  done,  I  recognised  my  host  of  the  Clos  in  a  man 
who  was  chaining  a  few  lads  to  the  pillory.  At  the 
same  time  M.  Paul  Bertauld  said  he  had  heard  that 
the  coveted  belle  was  the  daughter  of  Master  Pierre 
Jouanne,  executioner  of  the  towns  of  Rouen  and 
Dieppe,  and  he  thanked  me  for  taking  her,  having  no 
wish,  he  said,  to  have  anything  to  do  with  the  offspring 
of  an  executioner. 

At  this  I  could  not  refrain  from  drawing  and 
attacking  him.  But  there  was  such  a  multitude  around 
us  that  we  were  immediately  separated  ;  and  I  retired 
much  grieved  to  my  quarters. 

Although  Master  Jouanne  had  always  appeared  to 
me  a  man  of  strange  temper,  I  had  never  imagined  that 
he  exercised  a  profession  for  which  I  felt  loathing  and 
contempt.  And  yet,  in  spite  of  my  aversion  for  the 
father,  I  could  not  help  thinking  that  it  was  unjust  to 
punish  the  daughter  for  what  was  the  consequence  of 
those  hazards  which  make  us  the  children  either  of  a 
king  or  of  a  shepherd  ;  that  the  beauty  and  virtue  of 
Marguerite  made  her  far  more  worthy  to  be  born  near  a 
throne  than  on  the  steps  of  a  scaffold  ;  that  it  was 
wicked  to  spurn  so  pretty  and  charming  a  girl  because 
of  her  father's  horrible  occupations  ;  and  then  I  remem- 
bered my  own  crime  of  the  preceding  night,  and,  full  of 
shame  and  remorse,  I  wept  like  a  child. 

As  it  was  time  to  go  to  drill,  I  went  out  still  un- 
decided. Along  the  road  I  felt  certain  that  my  ac- 
quaintances turned  away  from  me,  and  when  I  arrived 
at  the  castle  I  perceived  that  my  brother  officers  greeted 


me  more  coldly  than  was  their  wont.  As,  however,  I  had 
never  been  very  friendly  to  anyone,  their  manner  troubled 
me  but  slightly,  and  I  went  away,  after  drill,  in  a  fit  of 
musing.  After  walking  for  some  time,  I  found  that 
strength  of  habit  had  led  my  steps  to  the  Clos-Mauduit. 
Marguerite  was  standing  on  the  doorstep  ;  and  even  if  I 
had  wished  to  turn  back  I  could  not  have  done  so 
without  breach  of  manners.  I  went  up  to  her,  and 
found  her  so  pale  and  wan  that  my  contrition  was 
greatly  increased.  As  her  father  was  still  engaged  in 
the  town,  I  walked  by  her  side  in  the  garden,  scarcely 
daring  to  speak  to  her,  but  so  joyful  at  being  near 
her  that  I  retired  thinking  how  absurd  it  was  to 
forsake  a  creature  so  fascinating,  and  that  if  Master 
Jouanne  her  father  broke  men  on  the  wheel,  there  was 
not  a  drop  of  blood  on  the  hands  she  allowed  me  to 

And  I  returned  to  her  on  the  morrow,  and  then  on 
every  day,  although  she  v/as  with  me  as  reticent  as  ever, 
and  I  took  good  care  not  to  boast  of  what  I  had  done. 
My  love  increased  so  rapidly  that  I  cherished  her  as 
much  as  if  she  had  been  a  queen's  daughter.  Upon  this 
it  came  to  my  knowledge  that  M.  Valvins  de  Blignac, 
having  recovered  from  his  wound,  was  spreading  calum- 
nies about  me  ;  and  the  result  was  that  one  morning  my 
brother  officers  pretended  not  to  see  me,  and  did  not 
even  take  off  their  hats  as  I  came  forth.  Much  incensed, 
I  went  home  to  my  lodgings,  where  my  servant  in- 
formed me  that  Blignac's  falsehoods  were  the  sole  cause 
of  my  misadventure.     I  immediately  went  in  quest  of 


a  second,  with  the  purpose  of  calling  out  Blignac.  But 
everyone  declined,  without  even  giving  me  a  reason  for 
refusing  ;  and  even  the  pettiest  officers  took  no  pains 
to  conceal  the  displeasure  with  which  my  request  was 
received.  In  this  predicament  I  thought  the  best  way 
was  to  find  out  my  antagonist,  and  I  was  about  to  request 
the  assistance  of  a  citizen-gentleman  when  my  servant 
handed  me  a  message  from  M.  le  Marquis  de  Laboissiere, 
asking  for  my  immediate  attendance. 

I  obeyed  the  summons  and  found  the  Marquis  in 
violent  anger  against  me.  He  said,  with  many  impre- 
cations, that,  not  content  with  transgressing  the  edicts 
of  the  King,  our  sire,  concerning  duels,  I  disgraced  the 
regiment  by  my  disgusting  affection  for  the  daughter  of 
the  executioner  ;  and,  without  allowing  me  to  answer,  he 
coupled  some  very  odious  epithets  with  the  poor  girl's 
name,  speaking  of  her  in  such  terms  as  I  dare  not 
repeat,  out  of  respect  for  her  memory.  Hearing  which, 
I  could  not  control  my  very  irritable  temper,  and  I  re- 
torted so  harshly  to  a  man  whose  age  and  authority  I 
was  bound  to  respect,  that  M.  le  Marquis  de  Laboissiere 
told  me  to  leave  the  room,  ordering  me  to  remain  under 
arrest  at  the  Castle  until  he  had  acquainted  the  king 
with  my  conduct.  This  enraged  me  still  more.  I  drew 
my  sword  and,  bending  it  over  my  knee,  I  broke  it, 
saying  he  could  dispense  with  v/riting  to  the  King  ta 
deprive  me  of  my  commission,  as  I  would  tear  it  with 
my  own  hands,  as  I  had  first  broken  my  sword. 

I  then  left  him,  but  I  took  care  not  to  abide  long  at 
my  quarters  for  fear  M.  le  Marquis  de  Laboissiere  should 
,  ,.  VOL.  I.  C 


have  me  arrested.  I  took  what  money^  I  possessed, 
saddled  my  horse  and  rode  out  of  town  in  great  haste. 
I  had  resolved  to  go  northward,  and  to  embark  in  some 
ship  for  India.  However,  I  would  not  go  without 
bidding  farewell  to  my  mistress.  I  still  retained  the 
hope  of  deciding  her  to  share  my  lot  in  a  country  where 
her  father's  vile  profession  could  not  haunt  us.  ...  I 
therefore  took  the  direction  of  the  Clos-Mauduit.  I  was 
surprised  to  find  the  house  in  a  state  of  darkness,  for  it 
was  not  late.  But  on  minutely  examining  the  premises, 
I  espied  rays  of  light  issuing  from  the  apertures  of  the 
door  of  a  kind  of  shed  adjoining  the  house,  and  at  the 
same  time  I  heard  a  deep  groan  coming  from  the  interior 
of  the  shed. 

Although  not  easily  moved  to  fear,  I  rememxber  that 
I,  shuddered  like  a  leaf  I  tied  my  horse  to  a  tree,  looked 
through  one  of  the  apertures,  and  what  I  saw  made  my 
hair  stand  on  end.  Marguerite,  my  beloved  Marguerite, 
was  stretched  on  the  leathern  bed  used  for  the  infliction 
of  torture  ;  her  cruel  father,  looking  more  like  a  tiger 
than  like  a  man,  had  placed  her  foot  in  the  boot  of 
torture ;  and  with  his  own  hand  he  was  striking  a 
spike  red  with  his  daughter's  blood  ;  at  each  blow  he 
repeated  with  rage,  *  Confess !  confess ! '  and  the  poor 
girl,  throwing  herself  backwards  with  many  tears  and 
shrieks,  implored  God  and  the  saints  of  paradise  to  bear 
witness  to  her  innocence. 

I  only  saw  this  cruelty  for  a  moment,  for  I  had 
picked  up  a  small  beam  close  by,  and.  Heaven  giving 
me  more  strength  than  I  thought  I  had,  I  smashed  the 


door  into  splinters  at  a  single  blow,  as  if  it  had  been 
destroyed  by  a  mine.  When  he  recognised  me,  Master 
Jouanne  threw  away  his  mallet,  and  seizing  the  large 
sword  which  he  used  to  decapitate  noblemen  he  brand- 
ished it  near  his  daughter's  head,  and  vowed  that  if  I 
stirred  in  her  defence  he  would  immediately  strike  her 
head  from  her  shoulders.  I  fell  on  my  knees,  crying  and 
moaning  as  poor  Marguerite  was  doing  when  I  entered. 
Master  Jouanne  then  asked  me  my  business,  and  wished 
to  know  whether  I  brought  him  the  name  of  the  seducer, 
which  he  sought  to  obtain  by  torment  from  his  daughter. 
I  replied  by  confessing  my  fault,  showing  him  that  I  alone 
was  guilty,  and  not  his  saint-like  and  virtuous  daughter. 
Hearing  which,  this  Master  Jouanne,  so  ferocious  and 
so  cruel,  sank  before  the  bed  of  torment,  bursting  into 
tears ;  he  unloosed  the  boot  from  his  daughter's  leg,  and 
taking  her  foot  between  his  hands,  he  kissed  her  wounds, 
imploring  her  pardon  with  so  much  grief  that  his  despair 
would  have  drawn  tears  from  a  rock.  At  the  same  time 
he  deplored  the  misfortunes  to  which  the  poor  were 
exposed  in  this  world,  saying  that  Heaven  should  make 
poor  girls  ugly  and  frightful  to  look  at,  since  neither 
virtue  nor  chastity  could  protect  them  from  the  noble 
and  the  powerful. 

At  this  stage,  I  advanced  and  expressed  my  inten- 
tion of  leaving  my  country  ;  and  I  further  declared  that 
I  was  ready  to  take  Marguerite  for  my  wife  and  com- 
panion. Master  Jouanne  showed  himself  more  moved 
by  my  proposal  than  he  had  been  hitherto ;  but  he  re- 
mained firm,  and,  turning  to  his  daughter,  he  said  it  was 



her  business  to  answer.  The  poor  girl,  thus  questioned, 
took  those  hands  which  had  but  just  done  her  so  much 
violent  and  bloody  harm,  kissed  them,  and  said  that  as  she 
was  her  father's  only  companion  and  supporter  in  his 
solitary  life,  she  would  not  leave  him,  even  if  I  offered  her 
the  throne  of  India,  whither  I  proposed  to  take  her. 

Master  Jouanne  embraced  his  daughter  very  unc- 
tuously, and  then  showed  me  the  door,  saying  that  he 
was  an  executioner,  not  an  assassin ;  that  he  would 
not  kill  me  on  that  day,  but  that  I  should  take  care  not 
to  reappear  in  the  town  or  neighbourhood  if  I  cared  for 
my  life. 

I  hung  my  head  and  turned  away  to  leave ;  but  as 
my  foot  touched  the  threshold  I  heard  behind  me  a 
deep  sob,  and,  looking  round,  I  saw  that  Marguerite  had 
fainted  in  her  father's  arms.  I  rushed  towards  her  ;  but 
Master  Jouanne  again  pushed  me  back  very  roughly. 
Seeing  by  the  state  of  his  daughter  that  her  soul  was  as 
troubled  as  mine  was  by  this  separation,  and  discovering 
that  she  loved  me  as  much  as  I  could  love  her,  nothing 
could  induce  me  to  retire.  I  therefore  proposed  to  the 
father  to  marry  Marguerite,  and  that  we  should  all  go  to  - 
some  distant  land,  where  we  could  live  in  peace. 

But  my  proposal  was  no  more  approved  of  than  my 
preceding  offer.  Jouanne  answered  that  a  tardy  and 
unavailing  change  of  profession  could  not  prevent  his 
son-in-law  from  despising  him,  and  from  imparting  his 
contempt  to  his  wife  ;  and  that,  since  his  daughter  had 
left  her  fate  in  her  father's  hands,  he  would  only  consent 
to  our  union  if  my  love  was  strong  enough  to  take  a 


share  of  the  opprobrium  and  hatred  which  belonged  to 
himself  and  his  child ;  that  without  scruple  I  had  dis- 
honoured the  executioner's  daughter ;  and  that  I  could 
only  atone  for  my  crime  by  becoming  an  executioner 

My  ancestor's  confession  comes  to  a  sudden  ter- 
mination. He  fails  to  give  the  conclusion  of  his  ad- 
venture, as  he  abstained  from  giving  an  account  of  the 
events  which  preceded  it.  Colombe  Brossier  and 
Marguerite  Jouanne  had  no  doubt  left  two  deep  wounds 
in  his  heart,  and  these  he  only  exhibited  with  grief  and 
reluctance.  He  married  Marguerite  Jouanne  ;  and  I  find 
in  the  official  record  of  an  execution  which  took  place 
at  Rouen  a  proof  that  the  relentless  Master  Jouanne 
exacted  from  his  son-in-law  a  stringent  discharge  of  his 
engagements.  The  record  says  '■  that,  having  to  break 
on  the  wheel  a  certain  Martin  Eslau,  Master  Pierre 
Jouanne,  principal  executioner,  having  compelled  his 
son-in-law,  who  was  but  lately  married,  to  aim  a  blow 
at  the  culprit,  the  said  son-in-law  fell  in  a  fit,  and  was 
hooted  by  the  mob.' 

The  happiness  which  Charles  Sanson  had  so  dearly 
paid  for  passed  away  as  a  dream.  His  wife  died,  after 
giving  birth  to  a  son. 




It  was  towards  the  end  of  the  year  1685  that  my  an- 
cestor Charles  Sanson  de  Longval  quitted  Normandy, 
leaving  behind  him  the  remains  of  that  Marguerite 
Jouanne  who  had  brought  him  so  unfortunate  a  marriage 
portion.  The  events  I  have  chronicled  had  almost  dis- 
turbed his  reason ;  he  had  fallen  into  a  dark,  fidgety 
mood,  which  increased  the  sinister  appearance  he  owed 
to  his  avocations.  At  Rouen  he  was  avoided  with 
something  like  terror ;  when  he  passed  through  the 
streets,  the  inhabitants  pointed  out  to  each  other  the 
man  who  all  over  his  person  bore  thie  marks  of  a  stormy 
existehce.  Most  ignored  his  trials ;  but  a  glance  at 
Sanson  was  sufficient  to  identify  him  as  the  executioner ; 
and  men,  women,  and  children  recoiled  from  him. 

For  many  reasons,  therefore,  my  ancestor  was  not 
sorry  to  renounce  his  unpleasant  celebrity,  and  to  leave 
a  spot  replete  with  sad  recollections.  He  hastened  to 
accede  to  the  proposal  which  was  made  to  him  of  an 
exchange  of  his  provincial  jurisdiction  for  that  of  the 
capital  of  the  kingdom.  The  time  was  fraught  with 
grave  events.     Chancellor  Letellier  had  just  died,  re- 


signing  his  seals  into  the  hands  of  President  Boucherat, 
who  was  reputed  a  kind  and  honest  man.  The  Marquis 
de  Bullion,  a  perfect  gentleman,  had  just  been  appointed 
Provost  of  Paris.  Thus  the  magistracy  was  being 
altered  at  the  two  extremities  of  the  social  ladder  in  the 
persons  of  the  Chancellor  of  France,  the  Provost  of 
Paris,  and  the  executioner. 

The  profound  emotion  caused  by  the  sudden  deaths 
which  had  thinned  the  Royal  P'amily  on  the  very  steps 
of  the  throne,  the  mysterious  doings  of  the  Chambre- 
Ardente  with  regard  to  the  subtle  poison,  borrowed  of 
the  Borgias,  which  had  been  styltd  powder  of  succession  ; 
all  this  excitement,  we  say,  had  just  subsided ;  and 
nothing  could  have  troubled  the  horizon,  if  an  act  of  the 
v/orst  policy — the  Revocation  of  the  Edict  of  Nantes — 
had  not  opened  for  the  nation  a  new  era  of  calamities. 
I  shall  not  enter  into  any  digression  concerning  this 
return  to  an  intolerance  which  had  already  fed  so  many 
civil  wars  in  France;  I  merely  wish  to  allude  to  the 
effect  this  event  had  in  Sanson  de  Longval's  exceptional 
sphere.  A  declaration  of  the  King  decreed  the  most 
rigorous  penalties  against  the  dying  who  refused  the 
Sacrament  because  they  belonged  to  the  Reformed 
Religion.  It  ordered  that  in  case  of  recovery  heretics 
should  be  sentenced  to  amende  honorable,  hard  labour 
for  life,  and  forfeiture  of  property  ;  and  in  case  of  death, 
that  their  trial  should  nevertheless  be  proceeded  with, 
and  their  bodies  be  dragged  on  a  hurdle,  and  then 
thrown  into  the  common  sewer. 

Another   declaration    enacted    the    same   penalties 


against  the  heretics  who  attempted  to  leave  the  country, 
as  well  as  against  those  who  abetted  them.  All  the 
Protestant  emigresy  and  those  reputed  as  such,  were 
threatened  with  forfeiture  when  they  returned  to  France 
after  a  brief  delay,  and  a  reward  of  i,ooo  livres  was 
promised  to  whoever  could  give  information  of  or  pre- 
vent a  design  of  emigration.  I  hasten  to  add  that  such 
excesses  of  fanaticism  were  posterior  to  my  ancestor's 
resolve  to  accept  the  office  of  executioner  of  Paris ; 
otherwise  I  have  no  doubt  he  would  have  remained  in 
Rouen.  Moreover,  these  awful  laws  and  posthumous 
penalties  were  little  more  than  legal  fictions,  being 
enacted  rather  to  intimidate  than  to  be  carried  out.  I 
find  no  trace  of  such  sentences  having  been  executed,  in 
the  papers  left  by  Sanson  de  Longval.  If  real  perse- 
cutions were  devised  at  the  time  against  the  Protestants, 
it  was  in  the  provinces,  not  in  Paris. 

On  his  arrival,  Sanson  was  disagreeably  impressed 
by  having  to  put  up  at  the  House  of  Pillory,  or,  as  the 
people  called  it,  the  Executioner's  Mansion.  This  abode, 
by  no  means  a  cheerful  one,  was  a  dark,  octagonal  con- 
struction, over  which  was  placed  a  revolving  cage,  the 
whole  edifice  terminating  in  a  sharp  steeple.  Before  the 
door  was  a  cross,  at  the  foot  of  which  bankrupts  came  to 
declare  that  they  abandoned  their  property,  after  which 
they  received  a  green  cap  from  the  executioner's  hands. 
Around  the  house  were  shops  which  the  executioner 
rented  ;  and  adjoining  these  were  a  stable  and  a  kind  of 
shed,  under  which  the  bodies  of  those  who  perished  by 
the   executioner's   hand    were    deposited   for    a   night. 


During  his  short  stay  at  the  House  of  Pillory,  my  ancestor 
acquired  a  taste  for  anatomy ;  and.  his  studies  were  not 
fruitless,  for  he  consigned  to  writing  many  curious  obser- 
vations on  the  muscular  system,  and  I  have  still  some 
prescriptions  of  his  for  diseases  of  the  joints.  The  study 
of  anatomy  and  the  manipulation  of  certain  remedies 
were  perpetuated  in  our  family.  None  among  us  ab- 
stained from  this  practice ;  and  the  reader  will  be 
astonished  at  the  enumeration,  in  the  sequel  of  the 
present  work,  of  the  cures  of  patients  who  came  to  us 
for  relief 

Sanson  de  Longval  soon  had  enough  of  his  official 
residence ;  and,  as  no  law  compelled  him  to  live  there, 
he  sought  suitable  quarters  in  some  remote  part  of  Paris. 
The  place  now  occupied  by  a  part  of  the  Faubourg 
Poissonniere  was  then  an  almost  deserted  spot  called 
New  France.  The  only  buildings  it  contained  was  the 
convent  of  Saint  Vincent  de  Paul,  and  a  modest  church 
patronised  by  St.  Anne.  Nowadays  the  church  has  been 
turned  into  a  beershop,  and  the  convent  into  a  prison. 
Charles  Sanson  had  a  house  erected  near  the  Church  of 
St.  Anne,  after  letting  the  Executioner's  Mansion  for  600 
livres — a  large  sum  for  the  time. 

The  first  years  of  Charles  Sanson  de  Longval's 
residence  in  Paris  were  marked  by  no  particularly  in- 
teresting occurrence  until  the  trial  and  execution  of 
Madame  Tiquet.  I  find  many  a  page  of  blood  in  the 
annals  of  my  family  before  reaching  the  account  of  this 
remarkable  case ;  but  even  crime,  it  must  be  admitted, 
has  its  aristocracy,  and  I   should  far  less  interest  my 


readers  by  relating  to  them  the  execution  of  some  ob- 
scure criminal  than  by  the  authentic  details  I  am  in  a  po- 
sition to  give  as  to  a  young  womxan  whose  fate  engrossed 
the  attention  of  the  whole  of  Paris  towards  the  end  of 
the  seventeenth  century.  Her  trial,  of  which  the  ter- 
mination was  far  more  tragic,  produced  in  those  days  as 
much  sensation  as  that  of  Mdme.  Lafarge  in  our  time. 
For  the  sake  of  accuracy,  I  must,  however,  mention  a 
few  executions  superintended  by  Charles  Sanson.  The 
culprits  were :  In  1685,  Claude  Vautier,  broken  on  the 
wheel  for  theft  and  murder.  In  1688,  Jean  Nouis  fils,  for 
the  same  crime.  In  1689,  Francois  Mannequin,  for  false 
evidence :  he  was  only  one-and-twenty  years  of  age,  and 
during  his  trial  he  pretended  that  he  was  only  seventeen, 
hoping  to  soften  his  judges.  In  1690,  Gabrielle  Henry, 
wife  of  Jacques  Piedeseigle,  assistant  major  of  Count  de 
Chamilly,  convicted  of  murder.  In  1691,  Urbaine 
Attibard,  wife  of  Pierre  Barrois,  aged  thirty-five,  who, 
having  poisoned  her  husband,  was  sentenced  to  amende 
honorable,  to  have  her  fist  struck  off,  and  to  be  hanged  ; 
her  body  to  be  burnt,  and  her  ashes  to  be  scattered  to 
the  wind.  And  lastly,  Claire  Lermenet,  wife  of  Michel 
Cloqueteur,  servant  of  M.  de  Breteuil,  put  to  death, 
after  horrible  tortures,  for  common  theft. 




In  the  first  months  of  the  year  1677  a  strange  event 
produced  a  profound  sensation  throughout  Paris,  and_ 
'soon  became  the  leading  topic  of  conversation.  A  well- 
known  and  esteemed  magistrate,  M.  Tiquet,  escaped,  as 
if  by  miracle,  from  a  conspiracy  against  his  life.  After 
being  fired  upon  by  a  number  of  murderers  placed  in 
ambush  near  his  house,  he  fell  insensible  on  the  pave- 
ment, and  but  for  the  prompt  action  of  his  valet,  who 
had  heard  the  report  of  firearms,  and  rushed  out  to  his 
master's  help,  he  would  probably  have  been  despatched. 
Much  surprise  was  evinced  when  it  became  known 
that  M.  Tiquet,  mindless  of  his  desperate  plight,  had 
obstinately  refused  to  be  taken  to  his  own  house,  and 
had  preferred  the  hospitality  of  one  of  his  lady  friends, 
Mdme.  de  Villemur,  to  that  of  his  own  mansion,  where, 
however,  he  knew  that  he  could  command  the  cares  of 
his  wife  and  of  the  two  children  he  had  had  by  her. 
This  conduct,  which,  to  say  the  least,  was  singular,  might 
have  given  birth  to  rather  unfavourable  comments  on 
the  morality  of  the  councillor,  if  far  graver  rumours  had 
not  furnished  a  quite  different  explanation.     It  was  also 


said  that  Mdme.  Tiquet,  on  hearing  of  the  crime,  had 
gone  to  Mdme.  de  Villemur's  house  to  see  her  husband  ; 
but  that  access  to  him  had  been  denied  her ;  and  further, 
that  when  the  magistrate  sent  to  him  to  inquire  into  the 
crime  had  questioned  him,  M.  Tiquet  answered  that,  to 
his  knowledge,  the  only  enemy  he  had  was  his  wife. 

This  was  enough  to  awaken  the  curiosity  of  a  popula- 
tioft'at  all  times  greedy  of  scandal  and  domestic  mysteries. 
The  history  of  M.  and  Mdme.  Tiquet  was  soon  in  every 
mouth.  It  ran  thus :  Angelique  Carlier  (Mdme.  Tiquet) 
came  from  Metz,  where  she  was  born  in  1657.  ^^^ 
father  was  a  rich  printer  and  bookseller ;  and  at  his  death 
he  left  a  fortune  of  80,000/.  to  be  divided  between  his 
daughter  and  her  brother.  The  latter  had  been  her 
only  guardian.  When  she  appeared  in  society,  she  was 
an  accomplished  person,  and  possessed  great  powers  of 
fascination.  Her  beauty  was  striking,  her  education  left 
nothing  to  be  desired ;  in  fact,  her  destiny  promised  to 
be  one  of  unusual  brilliancy.  She  was  soon  sought  by  a 
considerable  number  of  suitors,  among  whom  were 
rich  and  powerful  men.  But,  either  from  her  inability  to 
make  a  choice,  or  because  love  was  unknown  to  her 
heart,  Angelique  took  a  long  time  before  she  came 
to  a  decision.  Her  hesitation  became  favourable  to  M. 
Tiquet,  a  magistrate,  who  had  come  forward  in  the 
ranks  of  her  admirers  :  his  position  as  a  councillor  of 
Parliament  tickled  the  girl's  vanity,  and  she  at  length 
selected  him.  The  plebeian  name  of  Pierre  Tiquet  suffi- 
ciently testified  that  he  owed  his  position  as  a  magistrate 
to  his  own  talents  rather  than  to  his  birth ;  but  at  that 


time  mixed  alliances  were  far  less  frequent  than  they 
eventually  became,  and  Mdlle.  Carlier  could  hardly 
aspire  to  a  higher  station  than  that  which  her  husband 
offered  her.  As  to  M.  Tiquet,  he  married  both  for  love 
and  for  money.  He  had  spared  no  means  to  arrive  at  his 
ends,  and  had  gained  the  good  graces  of  two  powerful 
auxiliaries,  Angelique's  brother  and  one  of  her  aunts  who 
had  some  influence  over  the  girl.  With  this  help  he 
surmounted  the  secret  repulsion  he  inspired  in  Angelique^ 
less,  perhaps,  on  account  of  his  grave  and  unattractive 
face  than  as  a  result  of  his^age,  which  at  the  time  exceeded 
the  bounds  of  ordinary  maturity,  and  of  his  rather  vulgar 

The  counsels  of  her  aunt  and  brother,  and  the  pros^ 
pect  of  becoming  the  wife  of  an  exalted  magistrate, 
triumphed  over  her  real  feelings,  and  she  accepted  M. 
Tiquet's  hand.  It  was  said  that  the  latter,  in  order  to 
hasten  her  determination,  had  resigned  himself  to  an 
heroic  effort  of  generosity.  On  Angelique's  birthday  he 
offered  her  a  magnificent  bouquet  of  which  the  flowers 
were  mingled  with  diamonds  and  precious  stones  worth 
15,000  livres  (about  45,000  francs  in  our  money).  The 
honeymoon  lasted  nearly  three  years.  Two  children,  a 
boy  and  a  girl,  were  born,  and  nothing  seemed  to  trouble 
the  domestic  peace  of  M.  and  Mdme.  Tiquet.  The  lady, 
however,  had  expensive  tastes  ;  she  had  a  fine  establish- 
ment, carriages,  horses,  &c.,  and  she  also  received  in  her 
drawing-rooms  a  brilliant,  although  rather  mixed  society. 
Her  husband,  whose  only  income  came  from  his  office, 
and  who  had  made  heavy  debts  in  order  to  marry,  occa- 


sionally  remonstrated  With  his  wife  on  her  ruinous  taste, 
but  without  the  slightest  effect.  His  admonitions,  at 
first  tender  and  friendly,  became  imperative,  but  without 
avail.  Angelique  began  to  dislike  her  husband,  and  at 
last  she  got  to  hate  him.  Without  being  aware  of  it, 
her  brother  contributed  to  this  revulsion  of  Ang^lique's 
sentiments  for  her  husband.  He  introduced  to  her  a 
friend  of  his,  a  young  officer  named  M.  de  Mont- 
georges,  captain  of  the  French  guards.  The  latter 
was  young,  handsome,  of  martial  gait  and  imposing 
stature,  and  gifted  with  elegant  manners  ;  and  he  con- 
trasted favourably  with  the  morose  husband  of  Mdme. 
Tiquet.  The  handsome  officer  made  an  impression  on 
her  heart.  The  daily  disputes  with  Tiquet  made  her 
still  more  accessible  to  her  dawning  passion.  Mdme. 
Tiquet  was  soon  intimate  with  Montgeorges,  and  if 
anything  could  atone  for  her  fault,  it  was  its  singularity 
and  the  fact  that  she  was  true  unto  death  to  her  lover. 

Mdme.  Tiquet  was  imprudent  enough  to  make  no 
mystery  of  her  amours.  In  the  violence  of  her  passion 
she  forgot  everything,  and  the  councillor  was  soon 
apprised  of  the  conduct  of  his  wife.  Great  was  his 
surprise,  and  great  also  was  his  anger.  He  began  by 
turning  out  Montgeorges  and  making  away  with  Ma- 
dame's  evening  parties.  This  act  of  domestic  authority 
was  not  calculated  to  restore  harmony  in  the  household. 
Angelique  vowed  she  would  never  submit  to  the  kind  of 
life  her  husband  wished  to  impose  upon  her,  and  that  all 
his  efforts  would  tend  to  free  her.  This  appeared  to 
her  the  easier  as  her  fortune  belonged  to  her.     Unfortu- 


nately  she  found  ready  auxiliaries  in  her  brother  and 
aunt.  At  the  instigation  of  the  latter,  an  army  of 
creditors  assailed  Tiquet,  and  obtained  against  him 
sentence  after  sentence.  On  her  sida  Mdme.  Tiquet 
lost  no  time  in  demanding  a  judicial  separation.  The 
husband  was  not  the  less  active  on  his  own  behalf.  He 
complained  of  the  scandalous  conduct  of  his  wife,  excited 
the  compassion  of  his  brother  councillors,  and  by  the 
intermediary  of  M.  de  Novion,  the  President  of  Parlia- 
ment, he  at  length  obtained  a  lettre-de-cachet  (a  blanlc 
order  for  imprisonment  to  be  filled  up  by  the  holder) 
against  Angelique.  Henceforth  he  thought  he  was  the 
master,  and  attempted  to  dictate  to  his  wife.  He  ordered 
her  to  be  more  submissive,  if  she  cared  for  her  liberty, 
never  to  see  again  the  handsome  captain,  and  to  stay  all 
proceedings  for  separation.  Angelique  could  not  keep 
her  temper.  She  bitterly  insulted  her  husband  ;  and  as 
M.  Tiquet,  stung  to  the  quick,  was  triumphantly  showing 
his  lettre-de-cachet,  saying  that  he  would  make  im- 
mediate use  of  it,  Angelique  tore  it  from  his  .hand  and 
threw  it  into  the  fire. 

M.  Tiquet's  rage  and  disappointment  were  supreme. 
He  made  vain  attempts  to  procure  another  lettre-de- 
cachet  ;  but  his  solicitations  only  met  with  laughter  and 
irony.  The  luckless  councillor  became  the  laughing- 
stock of  Paris :  and  this  might  have  pacified  his  wife. 
She,  however,  persisted  in  her  intention  of  separating 
from  him.  It  was  then  that  she  devised  a  criminal  plan 
for  getting  rid  of  her  husband,  so  as  to  marry  Mont- 
georges,  whom  she  still  continued  to  see,  after  Tiquet's 


narrow  escape.  She  communicated  her  murderous  object 
to  Jacques  Moura,  her  porter,  who  became  her  accomplice. 
Many  others,  whose  names  it  is  of  no  use  to  give,  joined 
in  the  plot.  On  the  evening  appointed  for  the  crime,  all 
the  accomplices  were  posted  on  Tiquet's  way  ;  but  at  the 
last  moment  Angelique  was  undecided,  and  out  of  re- 
morse or  fear  she  countermanded  the  execution  of  the 
plot.  As  to  the  councillor,  although  he  had  no  suspicion 
of  the  criminal  designs  of  his  wife,  he  became  more  and 
more  jealous.  Suspecting  the  honesty  of  his  porter, 
Jacques  Moura,  he  dismissed  him  with  many  reproaches 
and  threats,  and  being  unwilling  to  entrust  the  door  to 
anyone,  he  actually  became  the  porter  of  his  own  mansion, 
receiving  only  well-known  persons,  taking  the  key  away 
with  him  when  he  went  out,  and  concealing  it  under  his 
pillow  during  the  night. 

This  minute  inquisition  and  almost  complete  im- 
prisonment exasperated  Mdme.  Tiquet,  and  threw  her 
again  into  morbid  ideas  of  murder.  One  day  the  old 
councillor  was  ill,  in  his  room ;  his  wife,  suddenly  be- 
coming affectionate,  sent  him  by  her  valet  a  cup  of  broth 
she  had  prepared  herself;  but  the  shrewd  servant,  guess- 
ing his  mistress's  design,  made  a  pretence  of  stumbling, 
dropped  the  cup,  and  left  the  house.  Tiquet  knew 
nothing  of  this  second  attempt.  Mdme.  Tiquet  was  not 
discouraged,  and  still  entertained  sinister  intentions. 

A  few  nights  after  this  adventure  M.  Tiquet  was 
in  the  company  of  Mdme.  de  Villemur,  who  lived  in  a 
house  not  far  from  his,  while  bis  wife  remained  at  home 
with  the  Countess  de  Lenonville.   As  M.  Tiquet  emerged 


in  the  street,  several  shots  flashed  through  the  darkness, 
and  he  fell,  struck  by  five  bullets.  None  of  the  wounds, 
however,  were  mortal. 

On  the  following  day  Mdme.  Tiquet  rose  early,  and, 
probably  to  avert  suspicion,  she  paid  a  visit  to  her 
friend,  Mdme.  d'Aunay.  The  latter  asked  her  whether 
M.  Tiquet  suspected  any  one.  '  Even  if  he  knew  them/ 
answered  Angelique,  '  he  would  take  care  not  to  say  so. 
Ah,  my  dear  friend,  to-day  it  is  my  turn  to  be  murdered  !  * 
Mdme.  d'Aunay  tried  to  calm  her  by  assuring  her  that 
so  foul  a  charge  could  never  be  brought  against  her. 
*  The  best  thing  they  can  do,'  she  added,  '  is  to  arrest  the 
porter  your  husband  dismissed  the  other  day.  He  may 
very  well  have  committed  the  crime  out  of  revenge.' 

These  words  struck  Mdme.  Tiquet ;  she  saw  all  that 
she  could  make,  for  her  own  defence,  out  of  the  dismissal 
of  Jacques  Moura,  who  had  more  than  once  expressed  the 
greatest  vindictiveness  with  regard  to  his  former  master, 
and  had  uttered  threats  against  him.  She  resolved  to 
remain  in  Paris,  and  turned  a  deaf  ear  to  the  advice  that 
was  given  to  her  on  all  sides.  A  monk  offered  to  disguise 
her,  and  take  her  to  Calais,  where  she  could  embark  for 
England.  Angelique  steadily  refused,  but  in  spite  of  her 
apparent  security  she  felt  anything  but  safe.  One 
morning  she  was  conversing  with  the  Countess  d'Aunay, 
who,  being  convinced  of  her  innocence,  was  faithful  to  her 
to  the  last.  As  the  Countess  was  about  to  retire,  Mdme. 
Tiquet  kept  her  back,  saying  that  she  had  a  foreboding 
that  she  was  going  to  be  arrested,  and  she  should  like 
her  friend  to  be  present.  Hardly  had  she  uttered  these 
VOL.  I.  D 


words  when  the  criminal  lieutenant  entered,  followed  by 
a  number  of  archers.  Mdme.  Tiquet  remained  unmoved. 
She  asked  leave  to  embrace  her  youngest  son,  followed 
the  lieutenant,  and  during  the  whole  of  the  way  showed 
extraordinary  calm  and  serenity.  She  was  taken  to 
the  little,  and  then  to  the  great  Chatelet.  The  indict- 
ment preferred  against  her  was  drawn  up  with  unusual 

As  soon  as  Angelique's  arrest  was  known  a  man 
named  Auguste  Cathelain  spontaneously  declared  that 
three  years  before  he  had  received  money  of  Jacques 
Moura,  commissioned  by  Angelique,  to  join  in  the  murder 
of  M.  Tiquet.  Jacques  Moura  and  the  informer  himself 
were  arrested.  They  were  confronted  with  the  chief 
prisoner ;  no  proof,  however,  could  be  adduced  that  they 
were  the  authors  of  the  last  attempt ;  but  proofs  were 
not  found  wanting  concerning  the  first  plot.  And, 
strange  to  say,  the  conspiracy  which  had  not  been  carried 
out  became  the  basis  of  the  charge  against  Mdme. 

Sanson  de  Longval  had  followed  all  the  phases  of 
this  celebrated  affair  with  painful  Interest,  for  he  but  too 
well  foresaw  that  work  was  being  prepared  for  him.  It 
was  with  grief  that  he  heard,  on  June  3,  1699,  that  a 
sentence  of  the  Chatelet  *  condemned  Angelique-NIcole 
Carlier  to  be  decapitated  In  the  Place  de  Greve  ;  Jacques 
Moura,  her  late  porter,  to  be  hanged  ;  their  property  to  be 
confiscated,  and  from  Angelique's  property  ten  thousand 
for  the  benefit  of  the  King,  and  one  hundred  thousand 
livres  for  that  of  Tiquet,  her  husband,  to  be  extracted.' 


This    sentence,    of    which    I    have    given    the    textual 
wording,   caused   much   sensation,  although  it  was  felt 
that   something   must    intervene   before    it  was  carried 
out.      M.  Tiquet  appealed    to    the    Parliament,  on  the 
plea  that  only  100,000  livres  had  been  awarded  to  him 
and  to  his  children.     He  asked  that  an  additional  1 5,000 
livres  should  be  taken  from  his  wife's  fortune  and  handed 
over  to  him.    The  Parliament  was  not  deaf  to  the  prayer 
of  one  of  its   own  members.     By  a  decision  taken  on 
June  17,  20,000,  instead  of  15,000,  livres  were  awarded 
to  Tiquet.     But  the  remainder  of  the  sentence  was  con- 
firmed.    This  decision  was  much  criticised.     The  public 
felt  that  the  Parliament  exacted  too  harsh  a  retribution 
for  the  crime  committed  against  itself  in    the   person 
of  M.  Tiquet.     After  all,  the  victim  had  recovered ;  M. 
Tiquet  was  quite  well  again,  and  no  proof  tended  to 
show  that  Angelique  was  responsible   for   the   second 
attempt  on  her  husband's  life.     And  then  Mdme.  Tiquet 
was  handsome,  witty,  and  accomplished,  and  she  belonged 
to  the  best  society  ;  her  love  passages  with  Montgeorges, 
« to  which  the  trial  had  attracted  general  attention,  her 
ill-assorted  union  with  an  old  man,  to  whom  she  had 
sacrificed  her  youngest  years,  and  many  other  things 
besides,  contributed  to  make  her  interesting.     Her  fate 
excited  much"  compassion,  and  on  all  sides  it  was  hoped 
that  royal  clemency  might  spare  so  touching  a  victim. 

It  was  said  that  M.  Tiquet  himself  went  to  Versailles 
with  his  two  children,  and  threw  himself  at  the  feet  of 
Louis  XIV.  Having  failed  to  obtain  either  his  wife's 
reprieve,  or  some  mitigation  of  her  punishment,  he  asked 

D  2 


that  the  whole  of  her  property  should  be  remitted  ta 
him.  This  he  obtained.  But  the  cupidity  manifested 
by  the  old  councillor  on  this  as  on  other  occasions 
excited  universal  indignation ;  and  this  naturally  gave 
rise  to  a  corresponding  amount  of  interest  and  sym- 
pathy on  Mdme.  Tiquet's  behalf  Her  brother  also 
was  moving  heaven  and  earth  to  save  her.  Thanks 
to  his  high  connections,  he  induced  the  most  powerful 
persons  to  intercede  in  her  favour  ;  and  Louis  XIV.  might 
have  yielded  but  for  the  stubborn  opposition  of  the 
Archbishop  of  Paris,  Cardinal  de  Noailles. 

All  hope  being  lost,  my  ancestor  could  only  expect  a 
prompt  requisition  of  his  services.  The  execution  was 
appointed  to  take  place  on  the  day  after  the  Fete-Dieu. 
The  altars  erected  in  the  public  places  and  streets  had 
but  just  been  removed,  when  Sanson  de  Longval  arrived 
on  the  Place  de  Greve  to  see  the  scaffold  erected.  An 
immense  crowd  witnessed  these  sinister  preparations. 

Meanwhile  Mdme.  Tiquet  was  led  into  the  chamber 
of  torture,  where,  in  the  presence  of  the  criminal  lieu- 
tenant, her  sentence  was  read  to  her  without  bringing  a 
tinge  of  paleness  to  her  cheeks.  Deffita,  the  criminal 
lieutenant,  was  one  of  Angelique's  former  admirers.  He 
could  barely  contain  his  emotion  ;  but  nevertheless  he 
thought  fit  to  address  to  the  victim  a  few  words  of 
exhortation.  The  poor  woman  could  hardly  forbear 
from  comparing  the  times  when  this  magistrate  was 
sighing  at  her  feet,  with  the  present  occasion.  '  I  am 
not  afraid  to  die,'  she  said.  *  The  day  which  brings  my 
life  to  an  end  sees  the  last  of  my  misfortunes.     I  do  not 


defy  death,  but  I  hope  to  bear  it  with  resignation,  and 
God  will  perhaps  do  me  the  favour  to  permit  me  to 
preserve  on  the  scaffold  as  much  calmness  as  I  have 
5hown  during  my  trial  and  in  this  room  where  my 
sentence  has  just  been  read  to  me.' 

The  lieutenant  then  implored  her  to  confess  her  crime 
and  to  reveal  the  names  of  her  accomplices,  so  as  to 
avoid  the  horrors  of  torture.  At  first  she  peremptorily 
refused.  But,  after  drinking  the  first  jugful  of  water,  her 
fortitude  forsook  her  as  she  saw  the  preparations  for  other 
tortures,  and  she  at  length  confessed  everything.  When 
she  was  asked  whether  Montgeorges  had  taken  part  in 
the  crime  :  '  Good  heavens,  no ! '  she  exclaimed ;  '  if  I 
had  told  him  of  it,  I  should  have  lost  his  esteem,  which 
was  dearer  to  me  than  life.'  She  was  then  handed  to 
the  Abbe  de  la  Chetardie,  her  confessor.  He  took  a 
place  beside  her  in  the  fatal  cart,  where  was  also  Jacques 
Moura,  accompanied  by  a  priest.  The  cortege  slowly 
wedged  its  way  through  the  multitude  of  spectators,  and 
reached  the  Place  de  Greve.  As  was  usual,  Mdme. 
Tiquet  was  clad  in  spotless  white,  and  her  dress  enhanced 
the  splendid  beauty  she  still  retained,  in  spite  of  her 
forty-two  years,  and  of  her  terrible  trials.  The  cart  had 
scarcely  halted  before  the  scaffold  when  a  violent  storm 
burst.  The  execution  was  momentarily  deferred.  For 
half  an  hour  Angelique  had  before  her  the  apparatus  of 
death  and  a  hearse  drawn  by  her  own  horses,  which 
had  been  sent  by  her  family  to  take  away  her  body. 

The  fatal  moment  was  at  hand.  Jacques  Moura  was 
executed  first.     When  Angelique's  turn  was  come,  she 


advanced,  gracefully  bowing  to  my  ancestor,  and  holding 
out  her  hand,  that  he  might  help  her  to  ascend  the  steps. 
He  took  with  respect  the  fingers  which  were  soon  to  be 
stiffened  by  death.  Mdme.  Tiquet  then  mounted  on 
the  scaffold  with  the  imposing  and  majestic  step  which 
had  always  been  admired  in  her.  She  knelt  on  the  plat- 
form, said  a  short  prayer,  and,  turning  to  her  confessor, 
*  I  thank  you  for  your  consolations  and  kind  w^ords ;  I 
shall  bear  them  to  the  Lord.' 

She  arranged  her  head-dress  and  long  hair;  and, 
after  kissing  the  block,  she  looked  at  my  ancestor,  and 
said : 

'  Sir,  will  you  be  good  enough  to  show  me  the  position. 
I  am  to  take  t ' 

Sanson  de  Longval,  impressed  by  her  look,  had  but 
just  the  strength  to  answer  that  she  had  only  to  put  her 
head  on  the  block. 

Angelique  obeyed,  and  said  again : 

'  Am  I  well  thus  t ' 

A  cloud  passed  before  my  ancestor's  eyes  ;  he  raised 
with  both  hands  the  heavy  two-edged  sword  which  was 
used  for  the  purpose  of  decapitation,  described  with  it  a 
kind  of  semicircle,  and  let  the  blade  fall  with  its  full 
weight  on  the  neck  of  the  handsome  victim. 

The  blood  spurted  out,  but  the  head  did  not  fall.  A 
cry  of  horror  rose  from  the  crowd. 

Sanson  de  Longval  struck  again ;  again  the  hissing 
of  the  sword  was  heard,  but  the  head  was  not  separated 
from  the  body.  The  cries  of  the  crowd  were  becoming 


Blinded  by  the  blood  which  spurted  at  every  stroke, 
Sanson  brandished  his  weapon  a  third  time  with  a  kind 
of  frenzy.  At  last  the  head  rolled  at  his  feet.  His 
assistants  picked  it  up  and  placed  it  on  the  block,  where 
it  remained  for  some  time  ;  and  several  witnesses  asserted 
that  even  in  death  it  retained  its  former  calmness  and 




I  HAVE  now  to  relate  a  lamentable  history  which  dwells 
on  a  time  posterior  to  the  death  of  Mdme.  Tiquet;^ 
but  as  the  events  which  led  to  it  are  anterior  to  this 
lady's  execution,  I  am  compelled  to  return  on  my  steps 
as  early  as  the  first  half  of  Louis  XI  V.'s  reign.  The  sun 
which  the  great  King  had  taken  for  his  emblem  was  be- 
ginning to  pale. 

The  Augsburg  league  had  just  given  the  last  blow 
to  the  public  funds,  already  exhausted  as  they  were  by 
thirty  years'  war  and  extravagant  prodigality.  France 
had  conquered  at  Fleurus,  Nerwiaden,  and  La  Mar- 
saille ;  but  she  was  tiring  of  glory,  and  calculating  the 
cost  of  such  victories.  Likewise  the  disaster  of  La 
Hogue,  the  failure  of  the  campaign  of  1693  which  Louis 
XIV.  led  in  person,  had  shown  at  home  as  well  as 
abroad  that,  after  all,  the  monarch  was  only  a  human 
being.  The  accomplishment  of  the  French  unity  which 
he  received  from  the  hands  of  Richelieu,  and  whicb  he 
so  gloriously  achieved,  was  not  completed  without  diffi- 
culty. Louis  XIV.  committed  a  grievous  mistake. 
After  introducing  unity  into  his  government,  he  wished  to 


extend  it  to  the  consciences  of  his  subjects.  On 
October  17,  1685,  he  had  revoked  the  Edict  of  Nantes 
and  covered  France  with  those  singular  apostles  whom 
Louvois  called  his  booted  missionaries.  In  January 
1686  another  edict  deprived  the  Protestants  of  the  right 
of  keeping  their  children.  The  *  heretics  '  emigrated  in 
large  numbers.  Those  who  abjured  retained  deep 
hatred  for  the  despotic  power  which  oppressed  them.  It 
was  then  that  the  revolutionary  spirit  of  the  nation 
awoke.  Popular  revendication  commenced ;  it  was 
inaugurated  by  the  warfare  of  pamphlets.  These 
attacks  became  the  more  dangerous  because  the  per- 
sonal prestige  of  Louis  had  not  survived  the  greatness 
of  the  monarch.  The  chivalrous  lover  of  La  Valliere, 
Fontanges,  and  Montespan  had  espoused,  in  1684,  the 
widow  of  Scarron  the  cripple.  This  sudden  fall  of  the 
demigod  gave  a  fearful  weapon  to  his  adversaries, 
and  the  pamphleteers  made  prompt  use  of  it.  In 
1689  a  pamphlet  entitled  the  'Sighs  of  Enslaved 
France  for  Liberty '  -produced  a  great  effect.  The  liberal 
aspirations  which  it  contained  were  so  new  that,  although 
it  was  couched  in  rather  dogmatic  terms,  the  most 
superficial  minds  were  captivated  by  them  ;  and  for 
some  time  there  was  a  real  struggle  between  the  public 
and  the  police,  who  with  equal  avidity  searched  for  copies 
of  the  pamphlets  ;  the  former  to  read,  the  latter  to  destroy 
them.  This  affair,  of  course,  led  many  people  to  the 
Bastille  or  to  the  torture-chamber. 

If  the  government  of  Louis  XIV.  had  been  severe  in 
all  such  attempts  against  the  majesty  of  the   throne,  it 


became  pitiless  with  those  who  dared  attack  the  com- 
panion chosen  by  the  King.  The  latter  was  doubtless 
aware  that  in  marrying  Mdme.  de  Maintenon  he  had 
made  a  political  mistake  ;  but  he  was  so  spoilt  by  adula- 
tion that  the  most  enormous  crime  was  to  remind  him 
of  his  error.  In  1694  a  few  copies  of  a  libel  entitled 
the  ^  Ghost  of  M.  Scarron '  were  circulated  in  Paris  and 
Versailles.  The  pamphlet  was  adorned  with  an  engraving 
which  parodied  the  monument  raised  by  Marshal  Lafeuil- 
lade,  on  the  Place  des  Victoires,  to  the  glory  of  his  master. 
Instead  of  having  four  statues  chained  at  his  feet,  the 
King  was  represented  chained  between  four  women  :  La 
Valliere,  Fontanges,  Montespan,  and  Maintenon. 

It  was  among  the  princes  of  the  blood  and  at  the  Court 
that  the  ^/<^  woman,  as  the  Palatine  Princess  called  her, 
had  most  enemies.  This  hatred  defeated  the  vigilance 
of  the  police  ;  before  the  prefect,  M.  de  la  Reynie,  knew 
of  the  existence  of  the  work,  the  King  found  a  copy 
under  his  napkin  at  breakfast,  and  Mdme.  de  Main- 
tenon received  another  copy  at  the  same  time  and  in  the 
same  way. 

This  outrage,  inflicted,  as  it  were,  in  the  midst  of  his 
palace,  exasperated  Louis  XIV.  M.  de  la  Reynie  was 
immediately  called  to  Versailles  ;  the  King  bitterly  up- 
braided him  for  what  he  called  his  guilty  indifference, 
and  ordered  him  to  discover  the  authors  of  the  libel 
and  to  punish  them  without  pity. 

Either  the  persons  who  had  given  cause  for  royal 
anger  were  very  powerful  and  clever,  or  the  means  of 
action  of  a  lieutenant  of  police  were  limited,  for  the  best 




agents  of  M.  de  la  Reynie  were  unsuccessful.  Still,  the 
King  was  as  angry  as  ever  ;  he  even  seemed  as  vexed  at 
the  failure  of  his  agents  as  at  the  insult,  and  whenever 
he  saw  the  lieutenant  he  did  not  spare  his  reproaches, 
to  that  unfortunate  official. 

At  length  chance  smiled  on  M.  de  la  Reynie,  who' 
saw  his  disgrace  fast  drawing  near.  One  morning  he 
was  carelessly  listening  to  the  complaint  of  an  artisan, 
from  whose  dwelling  5,000  livres  had  been  stolen 
the  day  before.  The  poor  fellow  obviously  took  the 
lieutenant  for  Providence  itself,  and^  supposing  that  he 
could  get  his  money  restored,  he  was  loud  in  his  lament- 
ations. While  he  was  speaking,  the  secretary  of  the 
lieutenant  entered  and  hurriedly  handed  a  letter  to  this 
magistrate,  begging  him  to  read  it  at  once. 

The    lieutenant  had  scarcely  glanced  at  the  paper 

than   he  jumped   in  his  arm-chair  with  every  sign  of 

strong  excitement.     At  his  bidding  the  secretary  went 

j  in  quest  of  a  police  officer,  while  M.  de  la  Reynie  was 

'  feverishly  writing  a  few  lines  on  a  piece  of  parchment 

bearing  the  seal  of  the  State. 

His  emotion  was  so  great  that  he  altogether  forgot 
the  presence  of  a  third  party  ;  and  he  did  not  notice 
that  the  despoiled  artisan,  who  was  standing  within  a 
yard  of  him,  could  read  every  word  he  was  writing. 
The  man  was  looking  on  with  the  candid  confidence  of 
one  who  is  so  convinced  of  the  importance  of  his 
bi:i^iness  that  he  cannot  doubt  but  that  the  magistrate  is 
engrossed  by  it  ;  but  the  secretary,  who  had  returned 
with  an  officer,  roughly  pulled  him  back. 


M.  de  la  Reynie  looked  up  and  appeared  disagree- 
ably surprised  by  the  presence  of  the  artisan. 

'  Write  down  your  name,'  said  he  in  a  harsh  voice  ; 
*  your  affair  shall  be  seen  to.' 

Profound  astonishment  appeared  on  the  face  of  the 
man  ;  he  hesitated  for  a  few  seconds,  went  to  the  table, 
took  up  a  piece  of  paper  and  a  pen,  and  then  turning 
round : 

'Allow  me  to  observe,  monseigneur,'  said  he,  *  that  I 
have  had  the  honour  to  acquaint  you  with  my  name  and 
occupation ;  and  further,  that  you  remembered  my 
words  so  well  that  I  was  marvelling  at  the  strength  of 
your  memory  when,  a  moment  ago,  I  saw  you  writing 
my  name  down  as  correctly  as  I  could  do.' 

M.  de  la  Reynie  bit  his  lip,  and  made  a  sign  to  his 
secretary  to  draw  closer  to  the  artisan. 

'  Your  name  is  Jean  Larcher,'  said  he  to  the  latter.    J 

'  It  is,  monseigneur.'  " 

'  You  are  a  bookbinder  of  the  rue  des  Lions-Saint- 

'  Monseigneur  is  quite  right,'  answered  poor  Jean 
Larcher,  who  was  smiling,  while  he  crumpled  in  his 
fingers  the  piece  of  paper  he  was  about  to  write  upon. 

M.  de  la  Reynie  was  smiling  also,  although  in  a 
different  way.  He  took  the  police  officer  aside,  whispered 
a  few  words  in  his  ear,  and  then  introducing  him  to  the 
bookbinder  :  '  This  gentleman,'  said  he,  '■  will  accompany 
you  to  your  house  ;  he  will  do  all  in  his  power  to  dis- 
cover your  thief,  and  we  shall  take  care  that  you  meet 
with  such  justice  as  is  due  to  you.' 


The  lieutenant  laid  stress  on  these  last  words,  and 
the  bookbinder,  astounded  at  meeting  with  so  gracious 
a  reception  from  a  high  magistrate,  could  hardly  find 
words  to  express  his  thanks  and  gratitude.  He  left 
the  residence  of  the  lieutenant  of  police  without  any- 
other  apparent  escort  than  that  obligingly  tendered 
by  M.  de  la  Reynie.  On  the  way  the  police  officer 
questioned  the  bookbinder,  who  furnished  him  with  all 
the  information  he  had  already  given  to  the  lieutenant, 
not  omitting  to  give  the  topography  of  his  house,  concern- 
ing which  his  companion  seemed  particularly  interested. 
Master  Jean  Larcher  was  overjoyed  at  the  great  atten- 
tion shown  by  M,  de  la  Reynie's  man  :  he  did  not  doubt 
but  that  his  5,000  livres  would  soon  be  returned  to  him, 
and  he  insisted  on  regaling  his  companion  with  the  best 
wine  they  could  procure  in  a  wine  shop. 

After  this  halt  they  went  in  the  direction  of 
the  rue  des  Lions-Saint-Paul.  Soldiers  and  police- 
men were  standing  around  the  bookbinder's  house. 
The  good  man  manifested  more  satisfaction  than 
surprise  at  this  military  display.  He  observed  to  his 
companion  that  if  his  house  had  been  as  well  guarded 
on  the  preceding  night,  so  many  good  people  would  not 
have  to  be  troubled  now.  The  house  inhabited  by 
Larcher  was  narrow,  but  rather  deep.  It  consisted  of  a 
ground  floor  composed  of  two  rooms,  one  on  the  street 
side  which  was  used  as  a  shop  and  dining-room,  the  other 
being  a  workshop.  An  alley  led  to  a  staircase  which 
communicated  with  the  first  floor,  composed  of  two  more 
rooms.     One  of  these  was  Master  Larcher's  bedroom  ; 


the  other  contained  the  books  and  papers  reserved  for 
binding.  To  this  last  room  the  police  officer  asked  to 
be  taken.  But  while  Larcher  was  showing  the  cup- 
board wherein  his  money  had  been  secreted,  M.  de  la 
Reynie's  man  took  quite  another  direction,  and  climbing 
up  to  the  top  of  another  cupboard,  he  brought  down  a 
small  bundle  of  pamphlets  upon  which  a  commissaire, 
who  suddenly  turned  up,  pounced  like  a  vulture. 

Master  Larcher,  greatly  astonished  that  so  much 
attention  should  be  given  to  what  appeared  to  him  of 
no  import  concerning  his  own  business,  was  pulling  the 
officer  by  the  sleeve  to  show  him  how  the  cupboard  had 
been  forced  open.  But  this  last  gentleman's  manners 
towards  him  had  considerably  changed ;  he  hardly 
listened  to  the  man  who,  a  few  moments  before,  was 
treated  by  him  as  an  intimate  friend. 

However,  the  commissaire  began  to  question  the 
bookbinder.  He  showed  him  the  pamphlets,  and  asked 
if  they  were  his  property. 

In  his  impatience.  Master  Larcher  answered  with 
some  rashness  that  all  that  was  in  the  house  belonged  to 
him  or  to  his  clients.  The  commissaire  then  untied  the 
bundle,  took  a  copy  of  the  pamphlet,  thrust  it  under 
Larcher's  eyes,  and  asked  where  it  came  from. 

When  he  read  the  title  of  the  pamphlet,  '  M.  Scarron's 
Ghost,'  of  which  he,  as  well  as  others,  had  heard,  he 
turned  white,  trembled,  took  his  head  in  his  hands,  and 
for  a  few  moments  remained  quite  stupefied.  He,  how- 
ever, recovered  his  powers  of  speech  arid  *swore  that  he 
had  no  knowledge  of  the  presence  of  the  fatal  pam- 


phlets  in  his  shop,  and  that  he  now  saw  them  for  the 
first  time.  M.  de  la  Reynie's  people  shrugged  their 
shoulders  disdainfully.  In  vain  did  he  repeat  his  asser- 
tions and  try  to  exculpate  himself  by  reminding  thenl  • 
that  he  himself  had  brought  the  police  to  his  house  with 
the  calmness  of  a  faultless  conscience.  The  officers  told 
him  he  could  explain  himself  before  his  judges  ;  and  they 
prepared  to  take  him  away. 

In  a  corner  of  the  apartment,  Jean  Larcher's  wife, 
concealing  her   face   in   her   apron,   was   weeping   and 
giving  every  token  of  violent  grief     As    Larcher  was 
crossing  the  threshold,  he  begged  the  officer  with  whom 
he  had  been  at  first  on  friendly  terms  to  allow  him  to  say 
farewell  to  the  woman  he  hardly  hoped  to  see  again. 
Hardened  as  he  was,  the  policeman  could  not  refuse  this 
slight  favour  ;  he  signed  to  his  men  to  relent,  and    the 
unfortunate  husband  exclaimed,  *  Marian,  Marian  ! '    But 
Madame  Larcher's  sobs  became  more  violent,  and  she  did 
not  seem  to  hear  her  husband's  call.      Those  who  stood 
around  her  pushed  her  towards  the  prisoner;  she  hesi- 
tated, and  then  rushing  into  Larcher's  arms  she  em- 
braced  him  with  many  demonstrations    of  grief   and 

The  woman's  hesitation  had  not  escaped  the  officer's 
eye  ;  he  also  remarked  that  Mdme.  Larcher  was  crying 
in  the  way  of  children  ;  that  is,  that  her  eyes  were  dry, 
and  that  not  one  tear  trickled  down  her  cheeks.  This 
struck  him  as  so  extraordinary  that  he  began  to  suspect 
.that  Jean  Larcher's  innocence  might,  after  all,  be  more 
genuine  than  that  of  the  miscreants  it  was  his  wont  to 


apprehend.  When  his  prisoner  was  safely  confined  in 
the  Chatelet,  he  imparted  his  suspicions  to  M.  de  la 
Reynie.  He  reminded  him  that  it  was  an  anonymous 
letter  which  denounced  Jean  Larcher,  and  indicated  the 
precise  spot  where  the  pamphlets  were  concealed  ;  he 
related  what  he  had  seen,  and  expressed  his  conviction 
that  the  unfortunate  bookbinder  was  the  victim  of  some 
conspiracy.  But  the  lieutenant  of  police  had  already 
announced  the  man's  arrest  to  the  King,  who  had  con- 
gratulated him  on  his  capture ;  he  held  his  culprit,  and 
he  was  no  man  to  relinquish  his  prey  for  a  shadow ;  that 
is  to  say,  for  the  uncertain  chances  of  an  enquiry. 

If  divers  circumstances  told  in  the  prisoner's  favour, 
there  were  heavy  considerations  on  the  other  side. 
Before  he  was  found  in  possession  of  the  libel  which  had 
baffled  the  search  of  the  police,  Jean  Larcher  had 
seriously  misbehaved  himself.  He  was  a  convert  to 
Protestantism,  and  had  allowed  his  son  to  remain  faithful 
to  his  family  creed  and  to  take  refuge  In  England  against 
persecutions.  To  this  '  crime  '  he  added  another — that 
of  remaining  in  constant  communication  with  his  child. 

Jean  Larcher  appeared  alone  at  the  bar.  He  was 
tortured  three  times,  and  he  suffered  with  more  firm- 
ness than  might  have  been  expected  of  a  poor  man 
already  advanced  in  years.  He  constantly  refused  to 
name  his  accomplices.  When  questioned  he  said  that 
the  death  of  one  innocent  man  was  enough  for  his 
judges,  and  that  he  had  no  wish  that,  through  him,  the 
latter  should  have  to  answer  for  more  blood. 

Sentenced  to  be  hanged,  he  was  led  to  the  gibbet  on 


Friday,  November  19,  1694,  at  six  o'clock  in  the  evening. 
He  was  seated  in  a  cart  with  a  man  named  Rambault,  a 
printer  of  Lyons,  convicted  of  a  similar  crime.  Larcher 
was  fidgety,  and  seemed  filled  with  thoughts  not  re- 
lating to  his  approaching  end.  He  however  behaved 
with  courage,  and  died  protesting  his  innocence. 

Before  dying  he  earnestly  begged  Sanson  to  take  a 
scapulary  he  had,  and  to  give  it  to  his  son  if  he  claimed 
it.  Some  years  after,  my  ancestor  had  an  opportunity  of 
accomplishing  the  poor  man's  wish.  It  led  to  a  fearful 
tragedy,  and  at  the  same  time  to  the  demonstration  of 
the  bookbinder's  innocence.  The  scapulary  contained 
the  name  of  a  man  who  was  Master  Jean  Larcher's 
assistant.  Nicolas  Larcher,  the  son,  who  had  been  in 
England,  discovered  that  his  mother  had  married  the 
man  designated  by  his  father  as  the  culprit.  Seized  with 
frenzy,  he  broke  into  their  house  in  the  dead  of  the 
night,  and  murdered  both  his  mother  and  her  second 
husband.  The  young  man  was  arrested,  but  died  in 
prison  of  brain  fever. 

In  1699  my  ancestor  had  passed  his  sixty-fourth 
year.  Hitherto  he  had  borne  his  lot  with  manly  and 
severe  resignation  ;  but  he  suddenly  broke  down.  He 
began  to  abhor  the  solitude  he  liked  so  much.  He  was 
uneasy,  and  started  at  the  slightest  noise ;  silence  filled 
him  with  awe.  Darkness  caused  him  such  terror  that  he 
constantly  kept  a  lighted  lamp  near  his  bedside.  This 
change  became  so  alarming  that  his  friends  and  his  son, 
who  had  reached  manhood,  advised  him  to  choose 
VOL.  I.  E 


another  partner,  whose  presence  and  cares  might  soften 
the  bitterness  of  his  last  days.  Some  time  before  he  had 
been  able  to  appreciate  the  qualities  of  Jeanne  Renee 
Dubut,  daughter  of  Pierre  Dubut,  upholsterer,  of  the  rue 
de  Beauregard.  Touched  by  the  friendship  and  devotion 
she  had  shown  him,  my  ancestor  married  her  on  Satur- 
day, July  II,  1699. 

Jeanne  Renee  to  a  certain  extent  realised  the  hopes 
of  the  few  who  were  attached  to  Sanson  de  Longval. 
But  his  quietude  seems  to  have  been  of  short  duration. 
He  resigned  his  office  into  his  son's  hands,  for  anything 
that  reminded  him  of  the  functions  he  had  discharged 
for  so  many  years  filled  him  with  fear  and  horror.  The 
sight  of  a  drop  of  blood  threw  the  old  executioner  into 
nervous  fits  which  appalled  all  those  who  witnessed 

He  could  bear  to  sojourn  in  Paris  no  longer ;  he 
.soon  retired  with  his  second  wife  to  a  small  farm  at 
Conde,  in  the  Brie  district,  which  he  had  bought,  and 
where  he  at  length  found  the  only  repose  our  like  can 
Jiope  for — death. 

In  spite  of  minute  searches  and  enquiries  I  have  been 
oinable  to  ascertain  the  exact  date  of  his  death.  The 
municipal  record  of  the  little  village  which  saw  the  last 
•of  Charles  Sanson  has,  naturally  enough,  disappeared, 
.and  his  last  day  was  not  recorded  in  his  son's  notes. 



Sanson's  son,  whose  Christian  name  was  Charles,  like  his 
father's,  took  official  possession  of  the  functions  he  had 
discharged  for  the  last  five  years,  on  September  8,  1703. 
He  was  of  a  mild  and  gentle  disposition,  and  by  temper 
and  appearance  was  much  like  his  mother.  Marguerite 
Jouanne.  On  April  30,  1707,  he  married  Marthe 
Dubut,  his  stepmother's  sister.  No  astonishment  need 
be  felt  at  both  father  and  son  espousing  two  sisters, 
when  it  is  remembered  that  Sanson  de  Longval  married 
at  an  advanced  stage  of  life,  and  that  he  took  his 
wife  only  as  a  companion  of  his  old  age.  Moreover, 
I  may  observe  that,  in  our  unfortunate  profession,  we 
_could__hardIy  choose  our  wives  out  of  our  own  sphere, 
and  that,  as  with  accursed  races,  our  families  perpetu- 
ally mingled  and  intermarried  in  such  a  way  as  to 
unite  in  the  same  person  divers  degrees  of  relationship 
which  usually  exclude  each  other.  Thus,  by  this  mar- 
riage, Sanson  de  Longval's  widow  became  the  sister-in- 
law  of  her  stepson,  and  the  young  person  Charles 
Sanson  married  was  previously,  in  some  degree,  his  aunt. 
I  can  make  these  anomalies  more  apparent  by  enu- 

E  2 


merating  the  persons  who  were  present  at  the  wedding. 
On  one  side  were  a  second  Marguerite  Jouanne,  widow 
of  Jean  Baptiste  Morin  in  the  first  place,  and  in  the 
second  of  Nicolas  Levasseur,  both  executioners,  quali- 
fied in  the  act  of  marriage  as  my  ancestor's  maternal 
aunt ;  Jeanne  Renee  Dubut,  widow  of  Charles  Sanson 
de  Longval,  his  stepmother,  and  sister  of  the  bride  ; 
Nicolas  Lemanchand,  executioner  at  Mantes,  cousin  of 
the  bride,  through  Marie  Levasseur,  his  wife  ;  and  Noel 
Desmasures,  usher  of  the  Chatelet,  friend.  On  Marthe 
Dubut's  side  were  Pierre  Dubut,  her  father ;  Elizabeth 
Voisin,  his  second  wife ;  Gilles  Darboucher,  green- 
grocer, who  had  married  a  sister  of  Dubut's  first  wife, 
and  was,  therefore,  uncle  of  Marthe  ;  and  lastly.  Mar- 
guerite Guillaume,  widow  of  Andre  Guillaume,  one  of 
the  King's  officers. 

It  may  be  seen  that  the  second  Marguerite  Jouanne 
had  only  been  able  to  find  executioners  for  husbands, 
that  Marie  Levasseur  had  the  same  fate,  and  lastly  that 
Marthe  Dubut  could  not  pretend  to  a  higher  union  than 
her  eldest  sister's.  The  gibbet  and  the  axe  were  in 
the  dowry  of  these  poor  women  when  they  went  to  the 

Charles  spared  no  means  to  brighten  Marthe  Dubut's 
existence.  The  emoluments  of  the  executioner  were 
then  considerable  ;  they  amounted,  chiefly  through  the 
right  of  /lavage,  to  not  less  than  60,000  livres.  My 
second  ancestor  was,  therefore,  enabled  to  surround 
his  young  wife  with  all  the  comforts  and  elegances  of 

^.tol  -'^^ 




Shortly  after  his  marriage  he  left  the  old  house  of 
New  France.  His  notary,  Master  Touvenot,  purchased 
for  him  a  superb  dwelling  situate  at  the  corner  of  the 
Rue  des  Poissonniers  and  the  Rue  d'Enfer,  now  the  Fau- 
bourg Poissonniere  and  the  Rue  Bleue.  It  is  the  house 
which  forms  the  corner  of  the  Rue  Papillon  and  Rue 
Bleue,  but  it  would  be  difficult  to  discriminate  the  fea- 
tures of  the  old  house  amidst  the  changes  and  improve- 
ments that  have  taken  place  in  it.  In  my  ancestor's  time 
it  was  a  large  mansion  between  court  and  garden,  built 
on  grounds  of  twelve  acres  in  extent.  Behind  the 
mansion  were  immense  gardens,  picturesquely  laid  out, 
of  which  a  part,  planted  with  shrubs  and  trees,  had  the 
appearance  of  a  real  park. 

This  property  belonged  to  M.  Paul  Antoine-Caignet, 
on  one  part,  and  on  the  other  to  Charles-Auguste 
Angenont,  equerry,  when  Charles  Sanson  bought  it 
through  M.  Touvenot's  agency.  It  remained  in  the 
family  until  my  grandfather  sold  it  in  1778  to  two 
gentlemen  named  Papillon  and  Riboutte.  These 
gentlemen  gave  their  names  to  the  two  streets  they 
constructed  on  the  land  occupied  by  the  shady  paths  of 
the  garden  of  my  ancestors.  I  am  sure  that  few  of  the 
inhabitants  of  these  streets  know  that  their  dwellings 
are  erected  on  the  spot  where  the  former  executioners 
of  Paris  used  to  stroll,  after  accomplishing  their  bloody 

The  rate  of  land  had  increased  so  much  in  1778 
that  my  grandfather  sold  for  more  than  100,000  livres 
the    house    and    grounds,    for  which    Charles   Sanson 


had  only  given  6,oco.  In  his  time  it  was  an  almost 
lordly  dwelling ;  the  building,  two  stories  high,  was 
preceded  by  a  large  court,  surrounded  with  adjoining 
constructions  of  all  kinds,  sheds,  stables,  coach-house, 
hot-houses,  &c.  On  the  ground  floor  was  a  hall,, 
giving  access  to  the  garden  by  a  double  staircase  ;  on 
the  right  of  the  hall  the  kitchens  ;  on  the  left,  the 
dining  and  drawing  room ;  on  the  first  floor  my 
ancestor's  apartments ;  and  on  the  second  floor  the 
servants'  rooms. 

The  garden  was  one  of  those  marvels  such  as  the 
agglomeration  of  modern  cities  no  longer  allows.  One 
part  of  it  was  converted  into  beds  of  flowers,  which 
bloomed  along  the  paths ;  beyond  was  a  series  of  un- 
equal squares,  carefully  separated  by  sanded  alleys, 
which  were  bordered  with  fruit  trees.  A  large  sward 
occupied  the  middle  of  the  garden.  At  the  other  end 
of  the  grounds  were  clusters  of  trees  symmetrically 
pierced  with  one  large  path,  and  four  lateral  paths, 
above  which  the  boughs  of  the  trees  met  and  formed 
the  thickest  shade. 

In  this  charming  house  Charles  Sanson  spent  his 
life  with  Marthe  Dubut,  his  wife.  He  lived  there 
humbly  and  quietly,  forgetting,  as  well  as  he  could,  the 
avocations  and  bent  of  his  existence.  I  am  not  aware, 
however,  that  he  justified  the  apprehensions  which  had 
poisoned  the  last  years  of  Sanson  de  Longval,  and  ever 
regretted  his  fate. 

From  1703  to  17 16,  the  list  of  executions  of  the 
second    Sanson    is    almost    exclusively    composed    of 


obscure  names,  connected  with  vulgar  crimes.  Cupidity- 
is  always  their  chief  motive,  and  murder  the  means  of 
execution.  A  few  highway  robbers,  Licaon,  La  Ches- 
naye,  Muillart,  Arpalin,  Petit-Jacques,  hardly  relieve  the 
monotony  of  this  nomenclature  by  the  audacity  of  their 

Louis  XIV.  died  in  171 5  ;  the  throne  devolved  to  a 
child  five  years  old,  and  the  Regency,  which  the  late  King 
wished  to  confide  to  the  Duke  du  Maine,  fell  to  the 
Duke  of  Orleans.  After  the  splendours  of  his  reign, 
and  perhaps  on  account  of  such  splendours,  Louis  XIV. 
left  France  humiliated  and  ruined.  The  task  of  retriev- 
ing his  faults  was  a  difficult  one ;  but  the  hatred  of  the 
multitude  for  the  monarch  whose  corpse  was  being 
taken  to  Saint-Denis  in  a  solitary  hearse,  its  enthu- 
siasm for  a  prince  who  was  only  noted  for  his  dissolute 
life,  prompted  the  latter  to  undertake  the  task. 

One  of  the  first  acts  of  the  new  sovereign  was 
an  edict  against  the  farmers  of  the  revenue.  On 
May  12  a  Chamber  of  Justice  was  established,  before 
which  a  whole  class  of  men  were  made  to  disgorge  the 
gold  on  which  they  had  fed.  This  court  was  established 
in  the  Couvent  des  Grands- Augustins,  and  an  adjoining 
room  was  turned  into  a  chamber  of  torture.  Question 
was  applied  to  the  enriched  financiers  just  as  if  they 
had  been  vulgar  criminals.  The  penalties  inflicted  by 
the  court  were  amende  honorable,  pillory,  imprisonment 
with  hard  labour,  death,  and  confiscation  in  any  case. 

This  long  and  minute  series  of  trials  had  the  usual 
result   of  quarrels    between  great  people.     The   booty 


changed  hands,  but  the  people  had  no  share  in  it. 
Scarcely  eighty  millions  were  returned  to  the  coffers  of 
the  State,  and  the  remainder  was  appropriated  by  those 
whose  duty  it  was  to  punish  exactions.  It  was  the 
eternal  theft  of  thieves  deceived  by  confreres  which,  it  is 
said,  has  the  privilege  of  exciting  the  devil's  hilarity. 
President  de  Fouqueux  appropriated  the  property  of  one 
Bonvalais,  famous  for  his  immense  wealth.  There 
were  many  victims.  Paparel,  brother-in-law  of  the 
Marquis  de  la  Fare,  who  was  one  of  the  Regent's 
favourites,  was  condemned  to  death.  Ferlet,  Francois 
Aubert,  d'Armilly,  Pierre  Maringue,  de  Berally,  Gourgon, 
Crojet,  Chaillon,  Renault,  and  many  others  were  simi- 
larly treated.  The  Regent,  who,  as  the  worthy  grand- 
son of  Louis  XI IL,  liked  to  play  the  part  of  dispenser 
of  justice,  was  relentless,  and  would  not  interfere.  These 
executions  offered  nothing  remarkable,  for  I  find  but 
few  allusions  to  the  subject  in  Charles  Sanson's  notes  ; 
and  as  I  do  not  pretend  to  make  of  this  book  an_exhj;^ 
bition  of  human  butchering,  I  must  fain  leave  the  sub- 
ject, and  pass  on  to  a  more  important  event  of  the  time 
in  which  my  ancestor  was  concerned  in  a  singular 

The  scandalous  orgies  of  the  Regent  at  the  Palais 
Royal  and  the  acerbity  of  pamphlets  had  at  length 
compromised  his  popularity,  and  his  enemies  thought 
the  time  well  chosen  to  deprive  him  of  power.  At  the 
head  of  the  Regent's  opponents  were  Philip  V.,  King  of 
Spain,  whose  ambition  was  to  add  to  his  crown  another 
realm,  and  thus  become  King  of  the  half  of  Europe; 


and  also  the  legitimised  princes  designated  for  the 
Regency  by  Louis  XIV.,  who  by  a  decree  of  Parliament 
had  recently  been  deprived  of  the  prerogatives  of 
princes  of  the  blood  at  the  instigation  of  the  Duke 
of  Orleans.  These  ambitions  and  hatreds  clubbed 
together ;  the  plotters  devised  gigantic  plans  ;  enhsted 
a  few  poor  noblemen  ;  and  it  was  this  circumscribed 
intrigue,  the  authors  of  which  would  have  appeared 
more  ridiculous  than  guilty  but  for  their  alliance  with  a 
foreign  prince,  which  was  called  the  conspiracy  of 

Cardinal  Alberoni,  minister  of  Philip  V.,  Prince  de 
Cellamare,  the  Spanish  Ambassador  in  Paris,  and  the 
Duchess  du  Maine,  who  could  not  console  herself  for 
losing  the  opportunity  of  governing  France,  were  the 
chief  wirepullers  of  the  plot.  This  plan  was  not  wanting 
in  boldness.  Philip  d'Orleans  was  to  be  captured  and 
imprisoned  in  the  citadel  of  Tarragonie,  and  the  Duke 
du  Maine  was  to  be  proclaimed  Regent ;  the  Pretender 
was  to  be  landed  in  England ;  it  was  further  proposed 
to  return  Naples  and  Sicily  to  the  empire,  to  annex  the 
Netherlands  to  France,  to  give  the  duchy  of  Tuscany  to 
the  second  son  of  the  King  of  Spain,  Sardinia  to  the 
Duke  of  Savoy,  Commachio  to  the  Pope,  Mantua  to 
the  Venetians ;  to  recognise  Philip  V.'s  claim  to  his 
'grandfather's  throne  in  case  the  boy-king  Louis  XV. 
should  die ;  in  short,  to  organise  a  Latin  empire 
which  was  to  exercise  an  irresistible  preponderance  in 

This  was  no  doubt  a  vast  conception,  and  it  is  curious 


that  the  man  of  genius  who  devised  it  was  so  mistaken 
in  the  instruments  and  the  means  he  used  to  carry  it  out. 
Among  the  princes  and  noblemen  who  joined  him,  not 
one  had  the  stuff  of  an  average  conspirator.  The 
auxiliaries  who  recruited  these  powerless  plotters  were, 
for  the  most  part,  timid  and  discredited  adventurers. 
The  result  of  this  conspiracy  on  paper  is  well  known, 
and  it  is  doubtful  whether  it  would  ever  have  been  men- 
tioned in  history  had  it  not  led  to  a  new  war  between 
two  nations  the  occurrence  of  which  family  links  seemed 
to  render  impossible. 

The  statesmen  who,  in  the  boudoir  of  the  Duchess 
du  Maine,  plotted  a  change  in  the  destinies  of  a  great 
nation  committed  the  absurd  blunder  of  giving  the 
documents  they  wished  to  send  to  Spain  to  an  under- 
writer of  the  King's  library,  named  Buvat.  A  note  left 
among  the  papers  entrusted  to  his  hands  awoke  Buvat's 
suspicions,  and  on  leaving  the  house  of  the  Prince  de 
Cellamare  he  hastened  to  communicate  with  the  able 
Dubois,  prime  minister  of  the  Regent.  Dubois  used  him 
as  a  spy,  and  was  informed,  day  after  day,  of  all  the 
secrets,  with  which  he  took  care  not  to  interfere  until  he 
knew  them  thoroughly ;  and  then  he  put  a  sudden  stop 
to  the  conspiracy  by  capturing  all  the  conspirators.  But 
the  Regent,  whose  influence  was  restored  through  this 
cabal,  could  show  clemency  without  peril.  No  execution 
followed  this  rose-coloured  plot,  and  there  would  be  no 
need  for  me  to  allude  to  it  if  Charles  Sanson  had  not 
chanced  to  take  a  part  in  one  of  its  least  known  inci- 

ANNE-LOUISE-b6n6dICTE    DE    bourbon,     DbCHESSE    DU    MAINE. 


An  Italian  nobleman,  who  had  obtained  the  confi- 
dence of  the  Regent  by  promising  to  tell  him  how  to 
make  gold,  at  length  persuaded  him  that  he  possessed 
the  power  of  evoking  the  devil ;  and  the  adept  having 
chosen  the  pits  of  Vanves  for  his  operations,  the  Regent 
promised  to  join  him  there  with  the  Marquis  de  Mire- 
poix.  This  Italian  was  the  agent  of  a  Silesian  adven- 
turer named  De  Schlieben,  who  had  been  sent  to  France 
by  the  Princess  des  Ursins.  Some  time  before  a  late 
colonel  called  La  Jonquiere  had  tried  to  capture  the 
Regent  in  the  Bois  de  Boulogne  which  the  prince  was  to 
traverse.  He  missed  Philip  by  a  quarter  of  an  hour. 
La  Jonquiere  had  fled,  but  he  had  been  arrested  at 
Liege  and  imprisoned  in  the  Bastille.  Schlieben  under- 
took to  accomplish  what  La  Jonquiere  had  failed  to  do, 
and  stratagem  very  nearly  succeeded  where  strength 
had  been  unsuccessful.  The  Regent's  incredible  curiosity 
was  very  nearly  followed  by  fatal  consequences,  and  his 
liberty  was  preserved  in  the  following  manner  : 

A  woman  who  had  recently  arrived  in  Paris,  and 
whose  beauty  was  remarkable,  was  living  in  furnished 
apartments  of  the  Rue  du  Pont-aux-Choux.  She  received 
many  visits ;  at  times  her  visitor  was  an  abbe  or  an 
officer ;  at  others  a  countryman  or  a  bourgeois.  Her 
neighbours,  who  took  her  for  a  woman  of  dissolute  life, 
felt  little  astonishment  at  the  number  of  her  acquaint- 
ances ;  but  one  of  them  discovered  that  this  profusion 
of  adorers  was  but  apparent,  and  that  only  one  man, 
under  different  disguises,  visited  the  unknown.  He 
informed  the  lieutenant  of  police  of  his  discovery ;  and 


this  official  was  about  to  order  the  woman's  arrest  when 
.a  terrible  uproar  was  heard  in  her  room.  The  door  was 
forced  open,  and  the  lady  was  found  struggling  with  a 
man  dressed  as  a  musketeer,  whom  the  neighbours  again 
identified  under  the  thick  moustache  he  had  added  to 
his  disguise,  and  who  spoke  with  a  foreign  accent.  It 
appeared  that  jealousy  was  the  cause  of  the  scene,  for 
the  woman  threatened  the  man  who,  judging  by  appear- 
ances, was  her  lover,  with  a  dagger  she  held  in  her  hand. 
The  police  were  sent  for ;  but  the  musketeer  managed 
to  escape ;  and  the  policemen  having  failed  to  question 
her  on  the  spot,  when  she  was  excited  and  might  have 
spoken  the  truth,  she  afterwards  gave  only  vague  and 
mendacious  information.  The  lieutenant  of  police  con- 
demned her  to  imprisonment  at  the  general  hospital, 
after  being  publicly  whipped.  This  punishment  was 
usually  inflicted  by  the  executioner's  assistants.  On  the 
day  after  it  was  inflicted,  Charles  Sanson  remarked  with 
astonishment  that  the  assistant  who  had  been  employed 
on  the  occasion  wore  a  signet  ring  of  great  value ;  he 
also  noticed  that  the  man  blushed  when  he  looked 
at  him.  Hereupon  Sanson  demanded  how  the  jewel 
was  in  his  possession ;  the  assistant  with  some  hesi- 
tation answered  that  the  unfortunate  woman  had  re- 
sisted, and  that  the  ring  and  a  small  diamond  had 
fallen  from  her  hair ;  he  took  possession  of  the  jewels ; 
and  as  the  woman  after  the  infliction  was  being  led  to 
the  hospital,  she  told  him  in  a  low  voice  that  she  had 
seen  him,  but  that  she  did  not  intend  to  denounce  him, 
and  should  even  give  him  the  small  diamond  if  he  would 


take  the  ring  to  a  merchant  named  Planta,  at  the  Duke 
de  Richelieu's  mansion,  and  that  he  should  be  amply- 
remunerated  by  him ;  she  also  begged  him  to  ask  the 
man  to  whom  she  sent  him  not  to  forget  her. 

The  improbability  of  this  quality  of  merchant  at- 
tributed to  the  owner  of  a  ring  of  which  the  crest  was- 
surmounted  with  an  earl's  coronet,  struck  Sanson.  He 
severely  scolded  his  assistant,  and  immediately  took  the 
ring  to  the  lieutenant  of  police.  The  woman  was  con- 
fronted with  the  executioner's  assistant,  and,  when  she 
was  threatened  with  torture,  she  volunteered  a  full 
confession.  Her  name  was  Antoinette  Sicard.  She  waS' 
M.  de  Schlieben's  mistress,  and  had  come  with  him  from 
Bayonne  to  Paris.  She  had  vaguely  heard  of  grand 
projects  which  were  to  be  for  her  lover  a  source  of  great 
wealth ;  he  had  once  brought  with  him  to  her  room  an 
Italian  with  whom  he  was  on  intimate  terms.  In  the 
course  of  the  dinner  they  laughed  at  the  simplicity 
of  a  person  whose  name  they  did  not  pronounce,  who- 
had  consented  to  go  and  see  the  devil,  at  night,  in  the 
pits  of  Vanves,  when  it  was  so  easy  for  him  to  enjoy 
the  sight  in  his  own  palace  by  looking  at  himself  in  a 

These  revelations  were  communicated  to  the  Abbe 
Dubois.  He  had  heard  of  the  Regent's  absurd  intention,, 
and  had  vainly  besought  his  master  to  renounce  his  con- 
templated journey.  The  discovery  which  (thanks  to  the 
intervention  of  Charles  Sanson)  the  lieutenant  of  police 
had  just  made,  confirmed  the  suspicions  he  already 
entertained.     He  ordered  the  arrest  of  the  '  devil '  and 


his  companion,  but  they  both  took  to  flight.  The 
ItaHan  took  refuge  in  Spain.  De  Schlieben,  less  for- 
tunate, was  taken  just  as  he  was  about  to  cross  the 
frontier.  Those  who  captured  him  took  him  back  to 
Paris  in  a  stage-coach  without  saying  a  word  of  their 
mission  to  the  other  passengers.  When  the  coach  ar- 
^rived  in  Paris,  it  drove  into  the  Bastille. 

Schlieben's  ring  remained  in  Charles  Sanson's  pos- 
session ;  it  was  the  only  reward  he  received  for  the 
service  he  had  rendered  the  State. 





Count  Antoine-Joseph  de  Horn  was  the  scion  of  a 
princely  race  ;  and  he  was  connected  with  the  highest 
tiobiHty  of  Europe.  At  the  time  when  speculation, 
under  Law's  auspices,  was  raging  in  Paris,  and  the 
temptation  of  gain  was  leading  astray  many  persons  of 
position  and  family,  Count  de  Horn  was  living  in  the 
capital  the  life  of  a  young  lord  of  fashion  and  fortune. 
The  sensation  which  was  produced  may  easily  be 
imagined  when  it  was  heard  that  he  had  been  arrested 
and  put  under  lock  and  key  under  the  twofold  charge  of 
having  murdered,  in  company  with  a  Piedmontese, 
called  the  Chevalier  de  Milhe,  and  a  third  unknown 
person,  a  Jew  who  speculated  in  the  shares  of  the 
Royal  Bank,  in  order  to  rob  him  of  a  pocket-book  which 
contained  a  sum  of  100,000  livres. 

The  murder  was  perpetrated  in  a  tavern  of  the  Rue 

Ouincampoix,  where,  it  was  alleged.  Count  de  Horn  and 

his  accomplices  had  made  an  appointment  with  the  Jew, 

I  under  pretence  of  purchasing  the  shares  he  had  in  his 

pocket,  but  in  reality  to  steal  them  from  him. 

The  greatest  agitation   prevailed  at  Court  in  con- 


sequence  of  this  affair,  owing  to  the  illustrious  rank  of 
the  accused,  and  of  his  connection  with  the  loftiest  aris- 
tocracy of  the  land.  De  Horn's  trial  was  pursued  with 
unprecedented  rapidity,  and  it  seems  as  if  the  numerous 
steps  taken  to  save  the  young  man's  life  only  hurried 
his  fate.  When  his  parents  heard  of  his  incarceration, 
they  lost  no  time  in  moving  heaven  and  earth  on  his  be- 
half. On  the  eve  of  the  trial,  a  large  number  of  his 
kinsmen  assembled  in  the  Palais  de  Justice,  and  waited 
for  the  members  of  the  court,  to  bow  to  them  as  they 
passed,  by  way  of  commending  the  accused  to  their  in- 
dulgence. This  imposing  manifestation,  undertaken  by 
the  first  seigneurs  of  France,  produced  no  effect :  the 
court  of  La  Tournelle  sentenced  Count  de  Horn  and  the 
Chevalier  de  Milhe  to  be  broken  on  the  wheel,  and  left 
there  until  death  should  follow. 

This  sentence  filled  the  young  man's  friends  and 
parents  with  terror  and  surprise.  They  sent  to  the  Regent 
a  petition  in  which  it  was  represented  that  Count  de  Horn's 
father  was  mad,  that  his  kinsman  Prince  Ferdinand  de 
Ligne  was  in  a  similar  condition,  that  lunacy  was  a  com- 
mon ailing  in  his  family,  and  that  the  young  man  must  have 
committed  the  crime  when  of  unsound  mind.  Among 
those  who  signed  the  petition  were  Prince  Claude  de 
Ligne,  Marquis  d'Harcourt,  the  Earl  of  Egmont,  the 
Duke  de  la  Tremouille,  the  Duke  de  la  Force,  the  Arch- 
bishop of  Cambray,  Prince  de  Soubise,  the  Princess  de 
Gonzague,  and  many  others  of  the  same  rank.  All  the 
facts  adduced  in  this  petition  were  certainly  authentic. 
The  great  race  of  the  Princes  de  Horn  and  Overisque 


had  given  many  examples  of  mental  aberration.  All 
the  subscribers  of  the  petition  went  in  a  body  to  the 
Palais  Royal ;  but  the  Regent  only  consented  to  receive 
a  deputation.  He  was  inflexible  with  regard  to  a 
reprieve ;  and  it  was  with  much  difficulty  that  he  con- 
sented to  a  commutation  of  the  sentence  into  decapita- 
tion. He  could  only  be  moved  by  being  reminded  that 
he  was  himself  related  to  the  culprit  through  his  mother 

the  Princess  Palatine.  How  he  kept  his  promise  will 
be  seen  hereafter. 

This  obstinacy  on  the  part  of  the  Regent  was  much 
commented  upon.  Personal  animosity  was  said  to  be  the 
cause.  M.  de  Horn,  being  young,  handsome,  and  captivat- 
ing, had  been  something  of  a  lady-killer.  Now,  morality 
was  not  the  distinguishing  feature  of  Philip  d'Orleans* 
Court,  and  it  was  said  that  several  beauties  in  fashion 
had  regarded  the  foreign  young  lord  with  more  than 
ordinary  favour.  Mdme.  de  Parabere's  name  was  par- 
ticularly mentioned  ;  and  it  was  related  that  the  Regent 

!  had  once  surprised  M.  de  Horn  in  conversation  with  the 
beautiful  marchioness.    In  his  fury  the  prince  showed  him 

■  the  door,  saying,  '  Sortez  ' — to  which  the  Count  made  the 
proud  and  appropriate  answer  :  '  Monseigneur,  nos  an- 
cotres  auraient  dit,  sortons.'  To  this  adventure,  whether 
real  or  invented,  was  attributed  the  Regent's  hatred  for 
Count  de  Horn,  whose  life  he  had  sworn  to  sacrifice.  It 
is  not  my  business  to  discuss  this  question.  What  was, 
most  certain  was  that  Law,  the  minister  of  finance,  and 
Dubois,  the  prime  minister,  showed  themselves  the 
bitterest  foes  of  Count  de  Horn.  The  influence  of  the 
VOL.  I.  F 


shares  of  the  Royal  Bank  and  of  the  Mississippi  was 
diminishing  ;  and  they  were  in  hopes  that  this  might  be 
mended  by  a  display  of  unparalleled  severity  for  the 
punishment  of  a  murder  committed  with  the  object  of 
taking  possession  of  some  of  these  shares. 

Shortly  afterwards,  Charles  Sanson  received  a  visit 
from  the  Marquis  de  Creqy,  the  nobleman  who  had  been 
the  instigator  and  leader  of  all  the  attempts  made  to  save 
the  unfortunate  youth.  He  seemed  convinced  that  the 
Regent  would  keep  his  word,  and  showed  him  a  letter  in 
v^hich  the  Duke  de  Saint-Simon  expressed  his  conviction 
that  Count  de  Horn  would  be  decapitated.  The  Marquis 
added  that  his  royal  highness  had  also  promised  that 
the  execution  should  take  place  in  the  court  of  the 
Conciergerie,  to  spare  the  culprit  the  shame  of  being  led 
through  the  crowd.  The  only  thing  was  to  spare  the 
unhappy  young  man  as  many  sufferings  as  possible. 
M.  de  Creqy  expressed  a  wish  to  see  the  sword  which 
was  to  be  used  for  his  execution  ;  he  turned  pale  when 
ray  ancestor  produced  the  broad  double-edged  blade, 
sharp  and  flashing,  which  could  hardly  be  styled  a 
-weapon.  On  one  side  was  engraved  the  word  Justitia  ; 
on  the  other  a  wheel,  emblem  of  torture.  It  was  the 
sword  with  which  the  Chevalier  de  Rohan  had  been  de- 

M.  de  Creqy  could  hardly  refrain  from  weeping  when 
he  begged  Charles  Sanson  to  be  as  lenient  as  possible 
in  the  execution  of  his  fearful  mission,  to  uncover  only 
the  neck  of  the  victim,  and  to  wait  until  he  received 
the  priest's  absolution  before  giving  him  the  fatal  blow. 


The  conversation  then  turned  to  the  measures  to  be 
taken  for  the  remittance  of  the  body,  which  M.  de 
Creqy  claimed  in  the  name  of  the  family.  He  re- 
quested my  ancestor  to  procure  a  padded  coffin  wherein 
to  place  the  remains  of  De  Horn,  which  were  then  to  be 
taken  away  in  a  carriage  sent  expressly  for  the  purpose. 
Charles  Sanson  promised  to  see  to  the  accomplishment 
of  these  lugubrious  details. 

When  he  left,  M.  de  Creqy,  wishing  to  reward  my 
ancestor  for  the  services  he  asked,  presented  him  with 
100  louis,  and  insisted  on  his  accepting  the  gift.  But 
Charles  Sanson  firmly  refused.  M.  de  Creqy  appeared 
moved,  and  retired.  I  may  be  forgiven  for  dwelling  with 
some  complacency  on  this  trait  of  disinterestedness  on 
the  part  of  one  of  those  who  preceded  me  in  the  office  I 
held  for  many  years ;  it  may  be  considered  as  an  answer 
to  the  charge  of  cupidity  which  has  been  launched  at  a 
profession  which  did  not  appear  sufficiently  soiled  by 

Only  a  few  hours  had  elapsed  since  the  visit  of  the 
Marquis  de  Creqy,  when  Charles  Sanson  received  the 
order  to  take,  on  the  next  morning  at  six  o'clock,  from 
the  Conciergerie,  Count  Antoine  de  Horn  ;  to  convey  him 
to  the  Place  de  Greve,  after  passing  through  the  torture- 
chamber,  and  carry  out  the  sentence  of  Parliament  in  its 
cruel  tenour.  My  ancestor's  expectation  was  justified  ; 
the  Regent  did  not  keep  his  word  ;  Law  and  Dubois  had 
won  the  day  against  the  Duke  de  Saint-Simon  and  the 

To  my  ancestor's  extreme  surprise,  the  sentence  did 


not  even  contain  the  secret  restriction  of  a  rctentitniy 
which  spared  horrible  sufferings  to  the  accused,  by 
ordering  the  executioner  to  strangle  him  before  breaking- 
his  limbs.  How  could  he  now  keep  the  promise  he  had 
made  to  the  Marquis  de  Creqy  ?  Charles  Sanson 
passed  the  night  in  anything  but  pleasant  reflections. 

It  was  broad  daylight  when  my  ancestor  arrived  at 
the  Conciergerie  with  his  sinister  cortege.  He  imme- 
diately entered  the  prison,  and  was  conducted  to  a  lower 
room  in  which  were  the  Count  de  Horn  and  M.  de 
Milhe,  who  had  just  been  tortured.  Both  were  horribly 
mangled,  for  they  had  supported  the  boot  to  the  eighth 
spike.  The  Count  was  extremely  pale.  He  cast  a 
haggard  look  around  him,  and  kept  speaking  to  his  com- 
panion, who  seemed  much  more  resigned  and  listened 
with  religious  attention  to  the  priest  who  was  consolin.p- 
him.  As  to  M.  de  Horn,  instead  of  being  plunged  in 
the  state  of  prostration  which  usually  followed  the 
abominable  sufferings  he  had  just  borne,  he  gesticulated 
with  feverish  animation  and  pronounced  incoherent 
words  which  almost  seemed  to  justify  what  had  been 
alleged  in  his  defence  concerning  the  unsoundness  of  his 
mind.  He  violently  repulsed  the  priest,  who  was 
dividing  his  attention  between  the  two  sufferers,  and  re- 
peatedly asked  for  Monsignor  Frangois  de  Lorraine,, 
Bishop  of  Bayeux,  from  whom  he  had  received  the  com- 
munion the  day  before. 

The  fatal  moment  came.  The  culprits  were  carried 
to  the  executioner's  cart.  Charles  Sanson  sat  down 
next  to  the  Count,  while  the  priest  continued  speaking 


to  the  Piedmontese.  Seeing  the  unhappy  young  man's 
extreme  agitation,  my  ancestor  thought  he  might  quiet 
him  by  giving  him  some  hope,  even  were  that  hope  to 
remain  unrealised. 

'  My  lord,'  he  said,  *  there  is  perhaps  some  hope. 
Your  relations  are  powerful.' 

The  prisoner  violently  interrupted  him.  *  They  have 
abandoned  me,'  he  exclaimed  ;  '  the  Bishop — where  is 
the  Bishop  }     He  promised  to  return.' 

'  Who  knows  t '  my  ancestor  ventured  to  say ; 
^  reprieve  may  yet  come.' 

The  young  man's  lips  turned  up  contemptuously. 
^  If  they  wanted  to  spare  my  life,  they  would  not  have 
crippled  me  in  this  fashion,'  he  replied,  bitterly,  casting  a 
look  at  his  lacerated  legs  and  feet. 

Charles  Sanson  says  in  his  notes  that  he  really  hoped 
and  expected  that  some  attempt  would  be  made  to  save 
De  Horn.  But  nothing  occurred.  The  Pont-au-Change 
was  passed,  and  in  another  minute  the  cortege  reached 
the  Place  de  Greve.  The  Count  looked  at  Sanson  re- 
proachfully as  if  upbraiding  him  for  what  he  had  said  ; 
but  he  was  now  quite  collected  and  the  fear  of  death  had 
left  him. 

At  length  the  cart  stopped  at  the  foot  of  the  scaffold. 
The  culprits,  owing  to  the  torture  they  had  undergone, 
could  not  move  unaided.  Charles  Sanson  therefore  took 
Count  de  Horn  in  his  arms  and  carried  him  up  the  steps. 
At  the  same  time  he  whispered  in  his  ear  the  advice  that 
he  should  ask  permission  to  make  revelations,  as  a  means 
of  gaining  time ;  but  the  unfortunate  young  man  had  again 


lost  his  self-possession  and  gave  vent  to  incoherent  excia 
niations.  '  I  knew  they  would  not  allow  the  Bishop  to 
come,'  he  said  ;  .  .  .  '  they  have  arrested  him  because  he 
had  shares  also.  But  I  shall  sell  my  life  dearly  ;  only  give 
me  arms  !  .  .  .  .  they  cannot  refuse  to  give  me  arms  ! '  .  .  . 
While  he  was  thus  expressing  himself,  Charles  Sanson 
stepped  back,  motioning  to  his  assistants  to  begin  their 
work  which  consisted  in  tying  him  to  the  plank  on 
which  he  was  to  be  broken.  When  this  was  done,  the 
priest,  who  had  just  left  the  Piedmontese,  approached 
De  Horn  :  '  My  son,'  he  said,  *  renounce  the  sentiments 
of  anger  and  revenge  which  trouble  your  last  moments. 
Only  think  of  God  :  He  is  the  sovereign  author  of  all 
justice,  if  you  appear  before  Him  with  a  contrite  and 
humbled  heart' 

The  Count  at  length  seemed  moved,  and  he  joined 
in  the  priest's  prayer.  As  to  my  ancestor,  he  remem- 
bered M.  de  Creqy's  request  as  to  priestly  absolution, 
and  in  this  respect  his  conscience  was  firm ;  but  he  had 
also  promised  not  to  make  the  young  man  suffer.  In  an 
instant  he  decided  on  the  course  he  should  adopt.  Simu- 
lating sudden  illness,  he  passed  his  iron  bar  to  Nicolas 
Gros,  his  oldest  assistant,  took  the  thin  rope  used  for  the 
secret  executions  of  the  retentimi,  passed  it  round  the 
Count's  neck,  and  before  Gros  had  raised  the  heavy  bar 
wherewith  he  was  about  to  break  the  culprit's  limbs,  he 
pulled  the  rope,  and  thus  spared  him  the  most  atrocious 
sufferings  ever  devised  by  human  cruelty. 

On  the  other  hand,  the  Chevalier  de  Milhe,  who  was 
being  broken,    uttered  wild    shrieks.     In  vain  did   the 


priest  wipe  the  perspiration  from  his  brow,  and  pour  a 
few  drops  of  water  into  his  mouth.  Charles  Sanson  was 
struck  with  the  inequaHty  of  the  sufferings  of  the  two 
men,  and  told  Gros  to  give  him  the  cotip  de  grace — the 
blow  which  broke  the  chest. 

Gros  obeyed,  but  not  without  casting  an  uneasy  look 
at  the  commissaire,  who  was  viewing  the  execution  from 
the  balcony  of  the  H6tel-de-ville.  No  doubt  the  latter 
cared  little  for  executions  of  this  kind,  of  which,  perhaps, 
he  had  seen  but  too  many,  for  he  perceived  nothing.  At 
this  moment  the  priest,  surprised  not  to  hear  the  cries  of 
Count  de  Horn,  returned  to  exhort  him  to  repentance  : 
he  saw  that  death  had  forestalled  him.  The  rope  was 
still  hanging  from  the  young  man's  neck,  and  my  ances- 
tor hastened  to  conceal  it  while  the  ecclesiastic  was 
standing  between  the  H6tel-de-ville  and  himself;  then, 
placing  a  finger  on  his  lips,  he  solicited  the  priest's  dis- 

Both  passed  the  remainder  of  the  day  beside  the 
mangled  remains.  Shortly  after  the  execution,  a  carriage 
drawn  by  six  horses,  preceded  by  a  mounted  servant,  and 
followed  by  six  servants  in  gorgeous  livery,  entered  the 
Place  de  Greve.  It  was  the  Duke  de  Croy  d'Havre,  whose 
arms  could  be  descried  on  the  panels  of  his  carriage 
through  the  black  crape  which  covered  it.  He  was  soon 
followed  by  three  other  carriages,  which  stopped  on  the 
north  side  of  the  square.  They  were  all  in  deep  mourning, 
as  also  the  harness  of  the  horses  and  the  liveries  of  the 
servants.  The  blinds  were  closed,  as  much  to  avoid  public 
curiosity  as  to  conceal  the   cruel  sight  of  the  scaffold. 


But  it  was  whispered  in  the  crowd  that  the  last  comers 
were  the  Prince  de  Ligne,  the  Duke  de  Rohan,  and  a 
Croiiy,  the  last  scion  of  the  illustrious  race  of  Arpad, 
which  traced  its  origin  to  Attila,  and  put  forth  more  legi- 
timate rights  to  the  crown  of  Hungary  than  the  house 
of  Hapsburg. 

My  ancestor  was  surprised  not  to  see  the  Marquis  de 
Creqy.  But  his  astonishment  was  short-lived,  for  a 
rumour  at  the  other  end  of  the  Place  announced  the 
arrival  of  two  other  carriages,  in  an  apparel  still  more 
pompous.  They  drove  up  to  the  other  carriages  and  took 
up  a  position  in  the  same  line.  The  Marquis  de  Creqy 
stepped  out,  and  advanced  on  to  the  square  clad  in  the 
uniform  of  a  colonel-general  and  general  inspector  of 
the  King's  armies,  and  wearing  the  insignias  of  the 
Golden  Fleece,  the  grand  crosses  of  Saint-Louis  and 
Saint-Jean  of  Jerusalem.  His  countenance  bore  the 
traces  of  profound  grief.  He  traversed  the  Greve  with 
a  firm  step  ;  the  crowd  stepped  back  respectfully  before 
this  great  personage,  who  was  one  of  Louis  XIV.'s 

As  soon  as  the  commissaire  saw  M.  de  Creqy,  he 
retired  from  the  balcony  of  the  H6tel-de-ville,  as  if 
only  waiting  for  this  final  protest  to  bring  the  scene  to  a 
conclusion.  This  meant  that  justice  was  satisfied.  The 
Marquis  walked  straight  up  to  my  ancestor  with  a  severe 
face,  and  looking  at  him  almost  threateningly  : 

*  Well,  sir,'  said  he,  in  a  stern  voice,  '  what  of  your 
promise } ' 

*  Monseigneur,'  answered  Charles  Sanson,  '  at  eight 

COUNT  DE  HORN.  ,73 

o'clock  this  morning  M.  le  Comte  de  Horn  was  dead,  and 
the  bar  of  my  assistant  struck  a  dead  body.' 

The  priest  confirmed  my  ancestor's  words. 

'  Well,'  said  M.  de  Creqy,  in  a  milder  tone,  '  our 
house  shall  remember  that  if  it  could  obtain  nothing 
from  the  clemency  of  the  Regent  and  from  the  justice 
of  Parliament,  it  is  at  least  indebted  to  the  humanity  of 
the  executioner.' 

The  Count's  body  was  then  untied  and  taken  to  one 
of  the  carriages.  It  was  so  mutilated  that  the  limbs 
seemed  ready  to  separate  from  the  trunk.  As  _a  protest 
against  the  cruelty  of  the  sentence,  M.  de  Creqy  in- 
sisted on  holding  one  of  the  legs,  which  only  adhered  to 
the  corpse  by  the  skin.  When  this  was  done  the  car- 
riages moved  away  in  a  file,  and  stopped  before  the 
house  of  the  Countess  de  Montmorency-Lagny,  nee 
De  Horn,  where  the  Count's  remains  were  placed  in  a 
bier  and  deposited  in  a  chapel.  It  remained  there  for 
two  days,  surrounded  by  a  numerous  clergy  who  sang 
the  mass  of  the  dead.  Meanwhile  Prince  Francois  de 
Lorraine,  Bishop  of  Bayeux,  had  returned  to  Paris.  He 
expressed  much  grief  at  having  been  unable  to  attend 
his  unfortunate  kinsman  to  the  scaffold,  thinking  that 
the  execution  was  to  take  place  at  a  later  date.  He 
nevertheless  arrived  in  time  to  join  his  prayers  to  those 
of  the  clergy,  and,  in  company  with  MM.  de  Creqy  and 
de  Plessis-Belliere,  he  escorted  the  body  to  the  Castle  of 
Baussigny,  in  the  Netherlands,  where  the  Prince  de 
Horn,  eldest  brother  of  the  defunct,  and  head  of  the 
family,  usually  resided. 


This  extraordinary  affair  greatly  irritated  the  highest 
personages  of  the  State  against  the  Regent  and  his 
favourites  :  it  proved  of  no  assistance  to  Law,  whose  fall 
was  unavoidable.  On  his  return  from  his  country-seat 
the  Duke  de  Saint-Simon  hastened  to  write  to  the  Duke 
d'Havre  to  express  his  regret  at  what  had  occurred,  and 
to  say  how  he  himself  had  been  deceived  by  the  false 
promises  of  the  Duke  d'Orleans. 

I  quote  here  the  Duke  d'Havre's  answer,  because  it 
not  only  expressed  the  sentiments  of  all  the  French 
nobility,  but  it  corroborates  what  I  have  said  concerning 
Charles  Sanson's  conduct : 

'■  My  dear  Duke, — I  accept  with  gratitude,  and  I  un- 
derstand quite  well,  the  regret  you  are  kind  enough  to 
express.  I  do  not  know  whether  the  Marquis  de  Para- 
bere  or  the  Marquis  de  Creqy  obtained  of  the  execu- 
tioner of  Paris  the  charity  which  is  attributed  to  him  ; 
but  what  I  do  know  is  that  the  death  of  Count  de  Horn 
is  the  result  of  a  false  policy,  of  the  financial  operations 
o?  the  Government,  and,  perhaps,  also  of  the  poHcy  ofthe 
Duke  d'Orleans.  You  know  my  sentiments  of  considera- 
tion for  you.  Croy  D'Havr£.' 

Was  Count  de  Horn  really  innocent }  We  have  no 
right  to  judge  the  merits  of  those  it  was  our  mission  to 
put  to  death.  Nevertheless  I  have  taken  the  liberty  to 
allude  to  the  rumours  which  were  current  at  the  time  of 
De  Horn's  arrest,  and  which  made  him  out  to  be  the  victim 
of  the    Regent's  personal  animosity.     Another  version 

COUNT  DE  HORN.  75^ 

tended  to  establish  his  innocence,  or,  at  least,  so  to- 
diminish  his  responsibility  in  the  Jew's  murder,  that,, 
were  the  version  correct,  the  sentence  he  sufifered  could 
only  be  regarded  as  a  monstrous  iniquity.  It  was  said 
that  M.  de  Horn  and  the  Chevalier  de  Milhe  had  not 
made  an  appointment  with  the  Jew  with  the  intention, 
of  murdering  and  robbing  him,  but  merely  with  the 
object  of  obtaining  from  him  a  large  sum  in  shares  of 
the  Bank  which  the  Count  had  really  entrusted  to  him  ; 
that  not  only  did  the  Jew  deny  the  deposit,  but  that  he 
went  so  far  as  to  strike  Antoine  de  Horn  in  the  face. 
Upon  this  the  young  man,  who  was  hot-blooded  and  pas- 
sionate, seized  a  knife  that  lay  on  the  table  and  wounded 
the  Jew  in  the  shoulder.  It  was  De  Milhe  who  finished  him 
and  took  the  pocket-book,  of  which  the  Count  refused  to 
have  a  share.  If  the  affair  occurred  in  this  way,  it  must 
be  acknowledged  that  the  Regent,  and  the  magistrates 
who  served  his  hatred,  had  a  heavy  reckoning  to  answer 




On  October  15,  1721,  Paris  was  in  a  fever  of  excitement. 
The  whole  population  was  crowding  the  streets ;  in 
shops,  taverns,  and  even  in  drawing-rooms,  people  greeted 
each  other  with  this  phrase,  which  nevertheless  met  with 
much  incredulity : 

/  Cartouche  is  captured.' 

'  Barbier's  Journal '  related  the  capture  in  the  fol- 
lowing terms  : 

'  15th. — Great  News  in  Paris  ! — I  have  spoken  before 
of  one  Cartouche,  a  notorious  robber  who  was  sought 
for  everywhere  and  was  found  nowhere.  It  was  thought 
to  be  a  fable.  His  existence  is  only  too  real.  This 
morning  at  eleven  o'clock  he  was  taken  ;  but  never  was 
a  thief  more  honoured. 

*  Words  attributed  to  him  inspired  fear  in  the  Regent, 
so  that  secret  orders  were  given  for  his  apprehension ; 
and  the  report  w^s  spread  in  Paris  that  he  had  left  the 
capital,  that  he  had  died  at  Orleans,  and  even  that  he 
was  a  myth,  so  that  he  should  not  imagine  that  he  was 
being  looked  for. 

*  He  has  been  discovered  through  a  robbery  he  com- 



mitted  at  an  innkeeper's  with  three  of  his  companions, 
and  also  at  the  instigation  of  a  patrol  soldier  who  sold 
him.  Pekom,  major  of  the  guards,  who  knew  that  he- 
was  acquainted  with  Cartouche,  took  him  to  the  Chatelet 
to  be  dealt  with  by  justice,  unless  he  gave  information 
concerning  Cartouche.  The  soldier  consented  and  acted 
as  a  spy.  M.  le  Blanc,  Secretary  of  State  for  War,  who 
conducted  the  whole  affair,  took  with  him  forty  picked 
soldiers  and  a  number  of  policemen,  who  had  orders  tCK 
take  Cartouche  dead  or  alive  ;  that  is,  to  fire  upon  him 
if  he  tried  to  run  away. 

*  Cartouche  had  gone  to '  bed  on  that  day  at  six 
o'clock,  at  a  wine  dealer's  of  La  Courtille,  and  he  was  lying; 
in  bed,  with  six  pistols  on  the  table.  The  house  was 
surrounded,  and  fortunately  he  was  captured  while  still 
in  bed  ;  otherwise  he  might  have' killed  some  one. 

*  He  w^as  bound  with  ropes,,  and  taken  to  M.  le 
Blanc's,  who  did  not  see  him,  because  he  was  ill ;  but 
M.  le  Blanc's  brothers  and  the  Marquis  de  Tresnel,  his 
son-in-law,  saw  him  in  the  court,  among  numerous 
officers  and  clerks  who  were  there.  He  was  then  taken 
afoot  to  the  Chatelet,  so  that  the  people  might  see  him, 
and  know  of  the  capture. 

*  It  is  said  that  Cartouche  was  insolent,  and  gnashed 
his  teeth,  and  that  he  said  they  should  not  hold  him 
long.  The  people  believe  him  to  be  something  of  a 
sorcerer ;  but  as  for  me,  I  think  that  cannot  prevent  him 
from  being  broken  on  the  wheel. 

*  He  has  been  thus  taken  to  the  Chatelet,  escorted 
by  a  large  concourse  of  people.    .He  has  been  put  in  a 


•cell,  attached  to  a  pillar,  for  fear  he  should  attempt  to 
break  his  head  against  the  walls,  and  the  door  is  guarded 
by  four  men.  Never  were  such  precautions  taken  before. 
He  is  to  be  questioned  to-morrow.  .  .  . 

*  It  is  said  that  he  answers  readily,  and  that  he  main- 
tains that  he  is  not  Cartouche ;  that  his  name  is  Jean 
Bourguignon,  and  that  he  comes  from  Bar-le-Duc' 

One  may  judge  from  the  above  document  how  Car- 
touche was  feared  by  the  population  which,  during  ten 
years,  he  had  robbed  with  a  good  fortune  only  equalled 
by  his  audacity. 

I  do  not  share  an  opinion  expressed  in  another 
quarter,  that  the  deeds  of  all  the  ruffians  who  at  the 
time  swarmed  in  the  capital  were  combined  in  this 
legendary  figure,  nor  that  the  people,  ever  greedy  of 
extraordinary  occurrences,  used  to  attribute  to  Cartouche 
the  crimes  of  the  great  criminals  of  the  period,  such  as 
Balagny-le-Capucin,  Dantragues,  Louis  Marcant,  Rozy- 
le-Craqueur,  Charles  Blanchard,  Pierrot-le-Bossu,  and, 
above  all,  Pelissier  alias  Boileau,  a  famous  criminal  who 
was  hanged  in  1722,  and  who  had  almost  as  many  titles 
as  Cartouche  to  the  sad  notoriety  which  belonged  to  the 

I  will  prove  this  by  giving  a  nomenclature  of  the 
■executions  which  form  the  subject  of  the  following 
chapter.  Never  were  robberies,  burglaries,  and  attacks 
on  the  high  road  so  numerous  as  from  171 5  to  1725.  It 
seemed  as  if  one  half  of  Paris  were  robbing  the  other  half. 

This  fever  of  rapine  and  crime  was  only  natural. 
The  Regency  was  a   period   of  social   transformation. 


The  public  mind,  compressed  by  the  severe  autocracy 
of  Louis  XIV.,  was  awaking,  and,  in  its  reaction  against 
the  asceticism  of  the  last  years  of  the  reign  of  the  Roi 
Soleil,  it  had  no  higher  aspiration  than  a  craving  for  the 
satisfaction  of  its  material  appetites.  A  kind  of  frenzy 
possessed  the  nation.  Honour,  the  former  object  of 
her  veneration,  was  replaced  by  pleasure ;  and  licence, 
the  result  of  a  relaxation  of  manners,  had  rapidly  spread 
through  the  lower  classes  of  society.  The  system 
which  could  in  the  course  of  a  day  enrich  the  poor,  and 
ruin  the  rich,  initiated  noblemen,  bourgeois,  and  men  of 
the  people  into  the  emotions  of  gambling.  The  shrine 
of  Hazard  was  substituted  for  that  of  patient  work  and 
resigned  probity.  This  fever  of  riches,  this  thirst  for  plea- 
sures and  ups  and  downs  in  fortune,  filled  Paris  with 
a  flock  of  disappointed  adventurers,  ruined  gamblers, 
and  unsatisfied  libertines,  ready  to  seek  in  crime  the 
pleasures  which  a  regular  life  could  not  afford  them. 
The  luxury  of  servants  had  increased  enormously,  and 
in  their  ranks  the  army  of  disorder  found  numerous  and 
willing  recruits.  It  also  found  elements  in  the  army,  and 
even  among  an  ill-organised  and  undisciplined  police. 

It  was  thus  that  individual  and  organised  banditism 
was  enabled  to  engage  in  an  open  struggle  with  society, 
oppose  strength  to  the  strength  used  to  destroy  it,  and 
persevere  with  impunity,  during  many  years,  in  its  depre- 
dations and  outrages. 

Cartouche  has  remained  the  ideal  of  the  thieves-of 
the  eighteenth  century.  In  the  sphere  of  crime  he  is 
the  exact  image  of  the  period  of  transition  during  which 


he  lived.  In  this  miscreant's  person  there  Is  much  of 
the  brigand  of  the  middle  ages  and,  at  the  same  time, 
of  the  thief  of  our  times.  Like  the  former,  he  has  fre- 
quent recourse  to  brutal  strength,  but  he  prefers  stra- 
tagem, of  which  he  is  a  master.  He  has  the  intuition  of 
all  the  improvements  introduced  by  his  successors  in  the 
art  of  appropriating  other  people's  property  ;  and  it  may 
be  said  that  he  is  the  precursor  of  thieves  of  our  gene- 

Cartouche's  biography,  which  has  been  frequently 
written,  does  not  come  within  my  province.  He  only 
belongs  to  me  from  the  time  when  the  law  handed  him 
over  to  that  one  of  my  ancestors  who  then  wielded  the 
sword  of  justice.  I  will  therefore  say  but  a  few  words 
concerning  Cartouche's  birth  and  life,  and  relate  a  few 
anecdotes  which  I  find  in  my  notes. 

Cartouche,  who  was  the  son  of  a  cooper,  passed  his 
youth  in  that  quarter  of  Paris  called  the  Marais.  After 
being  a  bohemian,  a  recruiter,  and  a  soldier,  he  returned 
to  Paris  in  17 15.  His  biographers  say  that  peace  cast 
him  penniless  on  the  King's  pavement.  It  appears  to 
me  more  probable  that  he  deserted  the  ranks.  What  is 
quite  accurate  is  the  tradition  which  attributes  to  this 
singular  man  the  powers  of  organisation  of  a  general, 
and  shows  us  this  Csesar  of  the  highway  at  the  head  of  a 
legion  in  which  he  had  established  a  kind  of  military 
hierarchy  and  a  unity  of  command  and  action ;  he  had 
accomplished  spies  in  all  ranks  of  society,  and  his 
army  had  even  its  surgeons. 

Thus  organised  against  an  almost  powerless  police, 


Cartouche's  gang  put  society  in  such  peril  that  pro- 
tracted impunity  might  have  given  it  the  proportions 
of  a  pubHc  calamity.  Thieves  were  so  numerous,  night 
attacks  were  so  frequent,  that  no  one  ventured  out  of 
doors  after  dark  without  an  escort,  and  caravans  were 
organised  to  cross  the  bridges  or  to  go  along  the  quays  ; 
the  waylayers  acted  with  such  eitsemble  and  upon  plans 
so  well  combined  that  all  their  attacks  were  crowned 
with  success.  Otherwise  it  would  be  hard  to  explain 
the  prodigious  number  of  their  misdeeds. 

Cartouche's  strength  and  audacity,  his  ingenious 
fecundity  of  stratagems,  his  extraordinary  agility,  the 
energy  with  which  he  endured  privations  and  fatigues, 
and  above  all  his  really  superior  intellect,  naturally 
designated  him  as  the  leader  of  gangs  of  thieves.  Cer- 
tain adventures  in  which  members  of  the  aristocracy 
played  a  part,  gave  him  notoriety  ;  a  daring  escape  and 
many  singular  exploits  established  his  celebrity,  and 
made  him  almost  popular. 

The  robbery  committed  on  the  Archbishop  of 
Bourges  was  the  subject  of  public  conversation  and 
caused  considerable  amusement  at  Court.  Monseig- 
neur  was  travelling  when,  in  the  neighbourhood  of 
Saint  Denis,  he  was  waylaid  and  robbed  by  Cartouche's 
men.  They  took  from  him  his  pastoral  cross,  his 
pontifical  ring,  ten  louis  he  had  in  his  purse,  and  two 
bottles  of  Tokay.  It  was  said  that  the  thieves  had 
taken  the  Abbe  Cerutti,  who  accompanied  the  arch- 
bishop, and  was  young  and  handsome,  for  a  disgui'^ed 
VOL.  I.  G 


lady,  and  that,  as  Monseigneur  de  Bourges  was  much 
ofifended  by  the  suggestion.  Cartouche  had  beaten  his 
subordinate,  saying,  *  This  will  teach  you  to  respect  the 
clergy  ! '  Mdrtle.  la  Marquise  de  Beauffremont  was  also 
the  heroine  of  art  adventure  with  Cartouche.  It  was 
alleged  that  she  distributed  safe-conducts  and  was  on 
good  terms  with  Cartouche,  for  the  following  cause  :  One 
night,  after  returning  from  a  ball,  she  sent  away  her  maids, 
and  began  to  write  by  hef  fireside.  She  suddenly  heard 
a  noise  in  her  chimney,  and  soon  after  a  man,  armed  to 
the  teeth,  tumbled  in  the  room  amidst  a  cloud  of  soot, 
dust,  and  sparrows'  nests.  As>  in  his  fall,  the  visitor 
had  sent  the  burning  logs  about  the  floor,  he  took 
the  tongs,  and  mindless  of  the  effect  produced  by  his 
singular  way  of  entering,  he  methodically  replaced  all 
the  wood  in  the  grate,  and  then  turning  to  Mdme. 
de  Beauffremont : 

'May  I  venture  to  ask,  madam/  said  he,  'whom  I 
have  the  honour  of  addressing } ' 

'  Sir,'  stammered  the  Marchioness,  trembling  with 
fear,  *  I  am  Mdme.  de  Beauffremont ;  but  as  I  do  not 
know  you  at  all,  and  as  you  have  not  the  looks  of  a 
thief,  I  cannot  guess  why  you  gain  access  to  my  room 
in  the  dead  of  the  night  and  down  the  chimney.' 

*  Madam,'  answered  the  unknown  visitor,  '  in  coming 
here  I  was  not  precisely  aware  of  the  nature  of  the  house 
into  which  I  was  compelled  to  intrude.  And  to  shorten 
a  visit  which,  I  have  no  doubt,  is  not  of  your  liking,  allow 
me  to  ask  you  to  have  the  kindness  to  accompany  me  as 
far  as  the  gate  of  your  mansion.' 


As  he  spoke,  he  drew  a  pistol  from  his  belt,  and  took 
up  a  candle. 

'But,  sir' 

'  Madam,  have  the  goodness  to  be  quick,'  he  added, 
cocking  his  pistol.  *  We  must  descend  together,  and 
you  will  be  good  enough  to  request  the  porter  to  open 
the  gate.' 

*  Do  not  speak  so  loud,  sir  ;  the  Marquis  de  Beauffre- 
mont  might  hear  you  ! '  said  the  frightened  lady. 

'  Put  on  your  cloak,  madam.  It  is  freezing,  and  you 
might  catch  cold.' 

Things  took  place  as  the  audacious  visitor  desired. 
.  Mdme.  de  Beauffremont  was  so  frightened  that  she  sank 
in  a  chair  in  the  porter's  lodge  after  the  man  passed  the 
threshold  of  the  mansion.  She  then  heard  a  tap  at  the 
porter's  window,  and  the  voice  of  the  strange  visitor  was 
heard  saying : 

*  Monsieur  le  Suisse,  I  have  walked  three  or  four 
miles  on  the  roofs  of  houses  during  the  night  to  escape 
from  the  policemen  who  were  after  me.  Do  not  go  and 
inform  your  master  that  there  was  any  impropriety  in 
being  in  this  house ;  otherwise  you  shall  be  dealt  with 
by  Cartouche.' 

Mdme.  de  Beauffremont  returned  to  her  room  and 
awoke  her  husband,  who  told  her  she  must  have  been 
dreaming.  Two  or  three  days  after  this  adventure  she 
received  a  letter  of  apology  and  thanks,  written  in  very 
respectful  and  choice  terms,  which  enclosed  a  safe- 
conduct  for  Mdme.  de  Beauffremont  and  an  authori- 
sation to  deliver  similar  documents  to  members  of  her 

G  2 


famrily.  With  the  letter  came  a  small  box  containing 
a  fine  diamond  which  was  estimated  at  6,000  livres, 
which  sum  Mdme.  de  Beauffremont  hastened  to  present 
to  the  H6tel-Dieu. 

An  anecdote  which  may  appear  more  authentic  is 
the  trick  Cartouche  played  at  the  expense  of  the  chief 
officer  of  patrols,  whom  he  deprived  of  his  silver  forks 
and  spoons  in  broad  daylight.  One  day,  at  twelve 
o'clock,,  as  this  officer  was  sitting  down  at  table,  the 
door  was  thrown  open,  and  he  saw  a  magnificent  carriage 
flanked  with  two  tall  servants  standing  near  his  window. 
A  stiff  and  self-possessed  old  man  stepped  out,  and, 
annoHncing  himself  as  an  Englishman  of  distinction,  he 
asked  to  see  the  chief  officer.  He  was  introduced  to  the 
dining-room.  Perceiving  that  dinner  was  on  the  table,  he 
apologised  profusely,  declined  to  take  a  seat,  and  having, 
he  remarked  in  an  accent  which  could  leave  no  doubt 
as  to  his  nationality,  only  a  few  words  to  say,  he  took 
the  officer  to  a  corner  of  the  apartment,  placing  himself 
so  that  the  latter  should  turn  his  back  to  the  windows. 

After  relating  how  an  anonymous  letter  had  warned 
him  that  his  house  was  to  be  attacked  on  the  follow- 
ing night,  after  asking  for  sentries  and  promising  a 
hundred  guineas  to  the  policemen  if  they  captured  the 
famous  Cartouche,  for  whom  the  generous  old  English- 
man expressed  the  most  profound  hatred,  he  left  his 
host,  who,  much  pleased  at  the  prospect  of  a  connection 
with  so  rich  a  man,  insisted  on  escorting  him  to  his 
carriage,  and  looked  at  the  fine  set-out  as  it  disap- 
peared round  the  street  corner. 


He  was  disturbed  in  his  contemplation  by  the  cries 
of  his  servant,  who  had  just  discovered  that  not  a  single 
spoon  or  fork  remained  on  the  table. 

Cartouche,  for  it  was  no  other,  had  acted  his  part  so 
well,  that  the  officer  defended  his  visitor  against  the 
accusations  of  his  servants,  and  maintained  that  he  had 
not  even  approached  the  table.  But  soldiers  in  the 
court  had  seen  the  noble  stranger's  people  carelessly 
leaning  against  the  open  window ;  the  table  being  at  a 
short  distance  from  the  window,  it  was  probable  that 
while  the  counterfeit  Englishman  was  engaging  the 
chief  officer's  attention,  the  tall  footmen,  stretching  out 
their  arms,  had  taken  the  silver  plate. 

A  few  minutes  after,  these  suspicions  were  confirmed. 
A  commissionaire  brought  to  the  chief  officer  a  dozen 
forks  and  spoons  of  the  finest  tin,  in  place  of  those  he 
had  lost. 

The  salient  feature  of  all  Cartouche's  acts  was  the 
witty  frolic  which  was  inseparable  from  them.  The 
thief  was  not  content  with  despoiling  his  victims  ;  he 
laughed  at  them  in  the  most  disagreeable  manner.  This 
was,  perhaps,  the  secret  of  his  renown  ;  Cartouche  under- 
stood that  much  would  be  forgiven  if  he  amused  those 
who  feared  him. 

It  was  on  October  27  that  Charles  Sanson  saw  Car- 
touche for  the  first  time.  He  was  still  at  the  Chatelet, 
and  there  was  a  large  crowd  before  the  entrance  of  the 
prison.  Everybody  wished  to  say,  '  I  have  seen  him  ! ' 
and  permission  to  visit  the  bandit  was  solicited  as  a  great 
favour.     Women  were  especially  eager  to  have  a  peep  at 


him  ;  the  Regent's  mistress,  Madame  de  Parabere,  was 
one  of  the  first  who  scanned  his  features. 

Charles  Sanson  was  perhaps  the  only  man  who  had 
a  right  to  be  more  patient  ;  but  the  lightness  of  senti- 
ments which  characterised  the  times  possessed  even 
the  executioner  ;  he  could  not  resist  the  solicitations  of 
a  few  friends  who  asked  to  accompany  him,  and  he 
failed  to  understand  that  it  was  neither  fair  nor  chari- 
table to  appear  prematurely  before  a  man  who  was 
doomed  to  meet  him  on  the  scaffold.  In  his  notes, 
Charles  Sanson  says  that  Cartouche  looked  forty — a 
statement  which  does  not  agree  with  the  date  of  his 
birth,  but  which  can  be  explained  by  the  effect  produced 
on  his  appearance  by  the  passions,  debaucheries,  and 
fatigues  of  his  profession.  His  head  between  the  ears 
was  extraordinarily  developed  ;  his  hair  was  thin  and 
shaggy,  and  the  eye  was  not  wanting  in  malice.  He 
was  of  rather  low  stature,  but  thinness  made  him 
look  taller  than  he  really  was.  '  We  examined  him 
with  surprise,'  adds  my  ancestor,  *  so  astonished  were 
we  that  a  man  so  ugly  should  have  been  represented 
as  a  woman-killer.  He  looked  joyful  and  in  good 
health,  and  when  one  of  our  number  asked  him  whether 
he  really  was  Cartouche,  he  shrugged  his  shoulders, 
and  sung  a  chorus  in  the  language  of  thieves.' 

Cartouche  recognised  his  grim  visitor ;  he  was  rather 
troubled,  but  he  soon  recovered  from  his  agitation,  and, 
showing  more  gaiety  than  he  had  hitherto  displayed, 
he  pointed  to  the  executioner's  stick,  and  asked  him  if 
he  had  brought  it  to  take  his  measure. 


An  attempt  at  escape,  which  was  nearly  successful, 
induced  the  authorities  to  transfer  Cartouche  to  the 
Conciergerie.  He  was  in  a  cell  with  another  prisoner, 
who  happened  to  be  a  mason.  They  made  a  hole  in  a 
sewer  gallery.  They  fell  into  the  water,  waded  their  way 
to  the  end  of  the  gallery,  and,  having  removed  a  very 
large  stone,  they  emerged  in  the  cellar  of  a  greengrocer, 
They  went  up  to  the  shop,  but,  unfortunately  for  the 
fugitives,  the  greengrocer's  dog  began  to  bark  furiously. 
The  servant  heard  the  noise,  opened  the  window,  and 
shrieked  for  help ;  the  greengrocer  came  down  with  a 
light,  and  would  have  allowed  them  to  run  away,  but 
four  policemen,  who  were  in  the  neighbourhood,  ran  up, 
entered  the  shop,  and  recognised  Cartouche,  who  had 
chains  to  his  feet  and  hands.  They  took  him  back  to 
prison  with  his  companion,  and  henceforth  he  was 
watched  with  the  utmost  vigilance. 

Cartouche's  trial  was  soon  concluded.  On  November 
26  was  passed  a  sentence  by  which  Louis  Dominique 
Cartouche,  alias  Lamarre,  alias  Petit,  alias  Bourguignon  ; 
Jacques  Maire,  Jean  Pierre  Balagny,  Pierre  Frangois 
Guthrus,  Duchatelet,  and  Charles  Blanchard,  were  con^ 
demned  to  be  broken,  after  suffering  the  question  ordi-. 
naire  et  extraordinaire.  Two  minor  accomplices  of  Carr 
touche,  Magdelaine  and  Messier,  were  sentenced  to  be 

On  the  next  day,  November  27,  Cartouche  was  tor- 
tured. He  suffered  the  '  boot '  with  extraordinary  firm- 
ness, and  refused  to  make  any  confession.  Mear^while 
the  '  carpenter '  had  been  ordered  to  erect  five  wheels 


and  two  gibbets  on  the  Place  de  Greve.  It  was  known 
at  large  that  Cartouche  was  to  be  executed  on  that  day: 
the  streets  were  crowded,  and  windows  on  the  Greve 
had  been  let  at  a  high  price.  Whether  it  was  because 
the  magistrates  did  not  care  to  satisfy  public  curiosity, 
or  because  the  other  culprits  were  not  in  a  state  to 
appear  on  the  scaffold,  I  do  not  know  ;  but  at  two 
o'clock  in  the  afternoon,  four  of  the  wheels  and  one  of 
the  gibbets  were  taken  down,  one  gibbet  being  left  to 
hang  the  ^^gy  of  a  man  named  Camus,  sentenced  in 
contiimaciani.  Towards  four  o'clock  Charles  Sanson 
went  to  the  Conciergerie,  accompanied  by  his  assistants ; 
and  the  clerk  of  the  court,  after  reading  the  sentence  to 
the  culprit,  handed  him  over  to  the  executioner. 

Cartouche  was  very  pale  ;  but  neither  the  sufferings 
he  had  endured  nor  approaching  death  made  any  im- 
pression on  his  hardened  soul.  Public  curiosity  had 
borne  fruit ;  Cartouche  thought  he  was  a  hero.  He  was 
about  to  ascend  the  steps  of  the  scaffold,  as  the 
gladiators  of  Rome  appeared  before  the  Caesar,  and  he 
wished  to  die  amidst  the  applause  of  the  people. 

After  he  was  placed  in  the  cart,  Charles  Sanson 
uttered  the  traditional  exclamation  by  which  the  last 
act  of  justice  was  announced,  and  the  cortege  set  out. 
On  the  way,  Cartouche,  who  was  stretched  at  the 
bottom  of  the  cart  with  his  head  resting  against  the  seat 
occupied  by  the  executioner,  manifested  great  im- 
patience. He  repeatedly  attempted  to  turn  round,  and 
at  length  he  asked  my  ancestor  whether  the  other  carts 
were  preceding  theirs.     His  agitation  became  extreme. 


When  the  cart  reached  the  Place  de  Greve,  he  made  an 
effort,  rose  and  looked  at  the  scaffold.  When  he  saw 
that  only  one  wheel  was  erected,  he  turned  pale,  large 
drops  fell  from  his  brow,  and  he  repeated  several  times 
*  Les  frollants,  les  frollmits  ! '  (the  traitors).  He  obviously 
expected  to  be  executed  in  good  company,  and  his 
courage  was  vanishing.  As  a  means  of  prolonging  his 
life,  he  said  he  wished  to  confess  his  crimes,  and  he  was 
taken  to  the  H6tel-de-Ville.  Meanwhile  the  scaffold 
remained  standing,  and  the  crowd  that  had  congregated 
to  see  the  execution  did  not  disperse.  On  the  following 
morning  Cartouche  was  again  handed  over  to  Charles 
Sanson :  but  he  was  an  altered  man  ;  he  no  longer 
made  a  show  of  his  cynicism,  and  although  his  firmness 
was  not  impaired,  it  had  lost  all  appearance  of  bravado. 
His  instincts,  however,  appeared  again ;  when  he  was 
placed  on  the  '  Croix  de  St.  Andre,'  and  the  dull  thud 
of  the  iron  bar  descending  on  his  limbs  was  heard,  Car- 
touche exclaimed  in  a  stentorian  voice,  as  if  counting 
the  blows,  *  One  ! ' 

But  he  relapsed  into  silence.  Many  as  were  the 
crimes  of  Cartouche,  he  had  the  benefit  of  retentttm,  a 
clause  -which  stipulated  that  the  culprit  should  be 
strangled  after  a  certain  number  of  blows  ;  but  the  clerk 
of  the  court  was  so  confused  that  he  forgot  to  mention 
the  fact  to  the  executioner.  Cartouche  was  so  strong 
that  it  required  eleven  blows  to  break  him,  and  I  can 
affirm  that,  contrary  to  what  was  stated  in  the  prods 
verbal  of  the  execution,  he  lived  more  than  twenty 
minutes  after  being  placed  on  the  wheel. 




If  Cartouche  had  been  able  to  guess  the  future,  he  might 
have  seen  that  the  fate  of  his  accomplices  was  no  better 
than  his.  On  the  fourth  day  after  the  execution  of  the 
celebrated  bandit,  Balagny  and  a  few  others  took  their 
place  on  the  ignominious  and  barbarous  wheel  which 
was  the  certain  end  of  anti-social  lives.  They  gave  in- 
formation as  to  their  accomplices,  and  made,  at  the  foot 
of  the  scaffold,  confessions  which  torture  had  failed  to 
elicit  from  them. 

They  implicated  so  many  persons,  that  another  series 
of  trials  began,  which  lasted  as  long  as  the  declarations 
of  convicted  prisoners  compromised  other  persons,  and 
threw  new  light  on  the  immense  ramifications  of  an 
association  of  miscreants  which  had  for  many  years 
defied  the  police.  More  than  sixty  persons  were  under 
lock  and  key  at  the  time  of  the  execution  of  Cartouche 
and  Balagny.  This  number  increased  every  day  in  con- 
sequence of  the  confession  of  those  who  hoped  to  save 
their  lives  by  denouncing  their  accomplices,  and  in  June 
of  the  following  year  it  rose  to  one  hundred  and  fifty. 
The  execution  of  Louis  Marcant  took  place  in  March, 
that  of  Rozy  in  June ;  and  all  this  blood,  instead  of 


washing  the  affair  away,  seemed  rather  to  make  it  more 
serious.  Each  day  brought  to  Hght  some  new  discovery  ; 
and  this  shows  how  profoundly  mistaken  were  those  who 
denied  that  Cartouche,  the  centre  and  wire-puller  of 
this  horrible  association,  possessed  the  organising  spirit 
without  which  he  could  not  have  extended  this  immense 
net  over  the  Parisian  society. 

Rozy  revealed  more  than  any  of  those  who  suffered 
before  him.  On  the  night  which  followed  his  last  inter- 
rogatory before  execution  eighty  persons  were  arrested 
and  taken  to  the  Conciergerie.  M.  Arnauld  de  Boueix, 
the  instructing  judge,  questioned  them  during  no  less 
than  thirty-two  consecutive  hours.  This  magistrate 
showed  extreme  zeal  and  firmness.  Some  even  accused 
him  of  excessive  rigour  and  even  cruelty.  This  was  easy 
to  account  for.  M.  Arnauld  de  Boueix  was  the  son  of  a 
criminal  Heutenant  of  Angouleme,  who  had  come  to 
Paris  to  watch  a  lawsuit,  and  who,  on  his  return  home, 
had  been  murdered  on  the  high-road.  Hence  M. 
Arnauld  de  Boueix's  hatred  for  his  father's  murderers. 

The  most  curious  feature  of  Rozy's  denunciations 
was  that  they  seriously  implicated  two  police  officers 
named  Leroux  and  Bourlon.  Rozy  maintained  their 
complicity  with  the  association,  and  also  especially  charged 
them  with  taking  part  in  the  murder  of  a  poor  poet 
named  Vergier,  who  had  been  killed  a  year  before  in  the 
Rue  du  Bout-du-Monde. 

The  enemies  of  the  Regent — and  they  were  many — 
sought  to  trace  to  him  the  responsibility  of  this  murder ; 
they  said  that  Vergier  was  killed  by  mistake,  that  the 


murderers,  paid  by  the  prince,  thought  they  struck  down 
Lagrange-Chancel,  author  of  the  '  Philippics,'  a  collection 
of  satires  which  had  caused  him  the  greatest  irritation. 
This  calumny  was  not  credited,  and  it  no  doubt  induced 
the  Regent  to  show  indulgence  to  the  author  of  the  verses, 
who,  instead  of  rotting  in  a  cell  of  the  Bastille,  as  hap- 
pened to  Latude  at  Mdme.  de  Pompadour's  instigation, 
was  sent  to  the  St.  Marguerite  isles,  whence  the  poet 
escaped  to  Holland. 

The  arrest  of  Leroux  and  Bourlon  caused  some  sen- 
sation. This,  however,  was  not  the  first  time  that  the 
police  were  found  in  connivance  with  thieves  ;  but  these 
two  men  were  so  warmly  supported  that  their  case 
attracted  universal  attention.  M.  d'Argenson,  lieutenant 
of  police,  interposed  on  behalf  of  his  employes  ;  M.  de 
la  Vrilliere,  Secretary  of  State,  in  whose  service  Bourlon 
had  once  been,  joined  him  in  his  efforts  to  extricate  the 
two  police  officers.  On  the  evening  which  followed  their 
arrest,  M.  de  Maurepas  came  with  a  lettre-de-cachet,  to 
remove  them  from  the  Conciergerie  to  the  Bastille.  The 
gaoler,  who  thought  he  was  under  the  order  of  the  Parlia- 
ment, refused  to  give  them  up.  M.  de  Maurepas  returned 
with  another  lettre-de-cachet  which  empowered  him  to 
take  the  gaoler  with  him  if  he  persisted  in  his  disobedience. 
The  first  president  was  then  referred  to  ;  the  latter  re- 
ferred to  M.  Amelot,  president  of  La  Tournelle  ;  and  these 
magistrates  decided  on  handing  over  Bourlon  and  Leroux 
to  M.  de  Maurepas,  who  took  them  to  the  Bastille.  But 
on  the  next  day  the  Parliament,  ever  jealous  of  its  pri- 
vileges, expressed  much  irritation  and  blamed  the  weak- 


ness  and  timidity  of  its  officials.  After  the  sitting,  they 
sent  the  procureur-generalto  the  Palais  Royal :  the  Regent 
declined  to  see  them.  At  twelve  o'clock  President 
Amelot  and  two  councillors  came  again.  This  time  they 
were  received.  They  humbly  prayed  his  royal  highness 
to  appoint  commissioners  in  order  to  finish  the  prosecu- 
tion of  Cartouche's  gang,  for,  as  far  as  they  were  con- 
cerned, they  would  immediately  set  free  all  the  criminals 
who  were  still  in  prison.  The  prince  was  afraid  of  a 
great  scandal,  so  he  yielded,  and  Bourlon  and  Leroux 
were  taken  back  to  the  Conciergerie.  They  probably 
escaped  scot-free,  for  I  do  not  find  their  names  on  Charles 
Sanson's  dead-lists. 

Still  the  scaffold  and  the  gibbet  were  in  constant  use 
in  the  course  of  the  year  1722,  and  it  seemed  as  if  the 
ramifications  of  the  Cartouche  association  were  endless. 
After  the  men  came  the  turn  of  the  women.  As  one 
may  think,  Cartouche  was  no  puritan.  He  always  had 
behind  him  a  perfect  seraglio,  the  members  of  which 
not  only  directed  him  but  acted  as  powerful  and  useful 
auxiliaries.  They  had  their  part  in  his  crimes,  and  it 
was  deemed  necessary  that  they  should  also  have  a  share 
of  the  retribution. 

Five  of  the  principal  mistresses  of  the  notorious  bandit 
were  hanged  in  July  1722.  One  of  them  made  a  full 
confession,  and,  when  tortured,  implicated  sixty  persons. 
Most  of  the  receivers  of  stolen  goods  were  captured. 
Among  them  were  large  jewellers,  well  known  in  Paris, 
who  hitherto  had  been  taken  for  honest  and  influential 
tradesmen.    The  honour  of  the  invention  of  Moutonnage^ 


which  consists  in  obtaining  the  confessions  of  prisoners 
and  thereby  getting  information  from  them,  has  been 
attributed  to  the  modern  poHce,  particularly  to  Vidocq 
and  his  successors.  The  invention  is  not  a  commendable 
one  ;  but  I  do  not  think  that  it  belongs  to  our  time. 
Police  officers  of  a  low  order  have  always  had  recourse 
to  such  stratagems.  Vidocq  was  especially  clever,  in 
this  way,  because  he  was  a  peculiar  individual ;  his  ante- 
cedents and  connections  rendered  him  more  apt  than 
anybody  else  to  gain  the  intimacy  of  malefactors.  But 
Vidocq's  system  died  with  him  ;  and  if  the  celebrated 
police  agent  is  still  regarded  as  a  giant  in  his  own 
sphere,  it  must  be  acknowledged  that  his  successors  are 
dwarfs.  Of  course  it  is  well  known  that  these  informers 
are  necessary  to  the  police  ;  and  they  have  been  found 
in  all  times.  ^ 

I  hasten  to  add  that  the  revelations  which  were  made 
in  the  course  of  the  executions  of  Cartouche's  accom- 
plices are  quite  different  ffom  modern  confessions. 
Nowadays  the  prisoner  is  allured  with  a  better  treat- 
ment in  prison,  the  hope  of  pecuniary  remuneration 
and  free  pardon.  Cartouche's  accomplices  were  con- 
demned, and  never  spoke  during  the  investigation  of  this 
stupendous  affair,  which  lasted  two  years.  Many  stoically 
suffered  torture  and  did  not  confess  ;  but  their  demeanour 
altered  at  the  foot  of  the  scaffold,  their  courage  failed, 
and  all  the  culprits  asked  to  stop  at  the  Hotel-de-Ville 
merely  to  prolong  their  lives.  Cartouche,  as  we  have 
seen,  acted  in  the  same  way.  However,  he  had  chiefly 
strived  to  exonerate  his  brothers,  maintaining  that  they 


had  taken  no  part  in  his  crimes,  because  he  would  not 
allow  them  to  join  him  in  his  expeditions.  His  generosity- 
had  no  effect ;  his  young  brother,  who  was  scarcely 
fifteen  years  of  age,  and  whom  he  particularly  loved, 
was  sentenced  to  hard  labour  for  life,  and  also  to  be 
suspended  under  the  armpits  for  two  hours  on  the  Place 
de  Greve.  This  new  species  of  punishment  was  invented 
by  M.  Arnauld  de  Boueix.  Hardly  was  the  child  sus- 
pended than  he  began  to  utter  frightful  shrieks,  saying 
that  he  would  rather  die  at  once  than  suffer  so  much. 
Charles  Sanson  and  his  assistants  were  astonished  and 
embarrassed,  not  knowing  the  effects  of  a  kind  of  punish- 
ment to  which  they  were  not  used ;  but  as  young  Cartouche 
was  said  to  be  precociously  wicked,  they  thought  there  was 
exaggeration  in  his  complaints.  Seeing,  however,  that 
his  face  was  reddening,  and  that  he  could  speak  no  longer, 
they  freed  him  before  the  expiration  of  the  two  hours. 
He  was  taken  to  the  Hotel-de^Ville,  where  he  died  with- 
out returning  to  consciousness. 

This  accident  was  much  talked  of ;  and  M.  Arnauld 
de  Boueix  was  loudly  taxed  with  cruelty.  Tanton,  uncle 
of  the  victim,  was  hanged  on  the  same  day. 

In  March  1723  trials  were  still  going  on.  One  of 
Cartouche's  notorious  accomplices  was  broken  on  the 
wheel.  Like  his  predecessors,  he  halted  at  the  Hotel-de- 
Ville  and  incriminated  one  hundred  persons. 

I  have  now  done  with  this  association,  of  which  the 
existence  has  often  been  contested  ;  but  I  must  complete 
this  chapter  by  rapidly  enumerating  a  few  other  execu- 
tions which  took  place  at  the  time.     The  first  was  that 


of  Pelissier,  a  bold  robber,  who,  disguised  as  a  surgeon 
and  a  gendarme,  had  perpetrated  crimes  worthy  of 
Cartouche  himself  Having  sufficiently  'worked/  he 
retired  from  '  business,'  and  went  to  Lyons,  where  he 
was  living  comfortably  when  he  was  arrested  and 
transferred  to  Paris.  His  trial  was  soon  concluded, 
although  he  denied  that  he  had  any  accomplices.  He 
had  placed  his  fortune,  which  was  considerable,  in  the 
Bank  of  Venice,  and  he  was  on  the  point  of  leaving 
France  when  he  was  arrested.  His  execution  was  one 
of  the  last  by  the  hand  of  Charles  Sanson.  Although 
young,  his  health  was  rapidly  declining,  and  a  constitu- 
tional malady  was  fast  leading  him  to  an  early  grave. 
He  was  almost  dying  when,  on  May  24,  1726,  he  was,  as 
it  were,  compelled  to  rise  from  his  bed  to  watch  the 
preparation  of  a  punishment  not  frequently  resorted  to — 
burning.  It  was  inflicted  on  Etienne  Benjamin  des 
Chaufifours,  a  gentleman  from  Lorraine,  for  an  infamous 

Charles  Sanson  did  not  survive  this  execution  by  many 
days.  He  died  on  September  12,  1726,  at  the  age  of 
forty-five.  His  widow  gave  him  a  superb  funeral  in  the 
Church  of  St.  Laurent.  He  left  three  children ;  the 
eldest  was  a  girl,  Anne-Renee  Sanson,  who  married  a 
man  named  Zelle,  of  Soissons  ;  and  two  sons,  Charles 
Jean-Baptiste  Sanson  and  Nicolas  Charles  Gabriel 
Sanson  ;  born,  the  first  in  April  17 19,  the  second  in  1721. 
The  age  of  these  two  heirs  of  the  sword  of  the  law  was 
an  excellent  opportunity  for  declining  the  bequest.  Their 
mother  judged  otherwise,  and  took  active  steps  to  obtain 


for  Charles  Jean-Baptiste  the  official  investiture  of  the 
sinister  office  left  vacant  by  his  father,  although  he  was 
only  seven  years  old.  This  woman's  severe  face,  of 
which  I  have  a  likeness,  shows  that  she  must  have  pos- 
sessed a  singular  temper.  She  certainly  had  strange 
notions  of  the  duties  of  maternity,  for  she  did  her  utmost 
to  obtain  the  post  of  executioner  for  the  child.  She  was 
recommended  by  the  criminal  lieutenant  and  the  pro- 
cureur-g^neral,  and  Charles  Jean-Baptiste  Sanson  was 
appointed.  During  his  minority,  two  questionnaires 
discharged  the  functions  in  his  name ;  these  were 
Georges  Herisson,  who  eventually  became  executioner 
of  Melun,  and  a  certain  Prudhomme. 

Although  the  child  invariably  accompanied  his  locum 
tenens,  and  was  present  at  all  executions  to  legalise  them 
by  his  presence,  he  was  too  young  to  note  his  impressions 
as  his  father  and  grandfather  had  done.  There  is,  there- 
fore, a  gap  in  these  memoirs,  which  prevents  me  from, 
alluding  to  several  well-known  executions. 

VOL.  I.        '  H 




One  evening,  at  the  Palace  of  Versailles,  Louis  XV. 
was  leaving  the  apartments  of  Mesdames,  accompanied 
by  the  Dauphin  and  a  part  of  the  Court.  He  went 
down  the  flight  of  steps  which  led  to  the  entrance  of 
the  palace,  before  which  his  carriage  was  waiting.  It 
was  bitterly  cold  ;  everybody  was  shivering,  and  the 
King,  who  was  of  a  chilly  disposition,  wore  two  over- 
coats, one  of  which  was  lined  with  fur.  As  he  was  pre- 
paring to  step  into  the  carriage,  a  man  rushed  between 
the  guards,  forced  back  the  Dauphin  and  the  Duke 
d'Ayen,  and  struck  the  King,  who  exclaimed  : 
*  Some  one  has  given  me  a  fearful  blow  ! ' 
In  the  confusion  caused  by  the  double  movement  of 
the  crowd  that  pressed  forward  to  have  a  glimpse  of  the 
King,  and  the  guards  who  kept  them  off",  no  one  seemed 
to  be  aware  of  what  had  taken  place.  However,  a  foot- 
man who  had  seen  the  stranger  place  his  hand  on  the 
King's  shoulder,  rushed  upon  him,  and  captured  him, 
with  the  assistance  of  two  other  footmen. 

The  King  passed  his  hand  under  his  vest  and  per- 
ceived that   he  was   wounded.     At  the  same  time  he 


turned  round,  and,  seeing  the  man  who  had  struck  him, 
he  exclaimed :  *  He  is  the  man  ;  arrest  him,  but  do  him 
no  harm  ! '  After  this,  he  returned  to  his  apartments, 
supported  by  MM.  de  Brienne  and  de  Richelieu. 

The  guards  and  the  Switzers  surrounded  the 
murderer  and  led  him  to  their  guard-room.  He  was  a 
tall  man,  from  forty  to  forty-five  years  of  age,  with  an 
aquiline  and  protuberant  nose,  deep-set  eyes,  and  shaggy 
hair.  He  was  so  red  in  the  face  that  even  with  the 
emotion  he  must  have  felt  he  did  not  appear  pale.  He 
was  searched,  and  the  weapon  with  which  he  had  just 
struck  the  King  was  found  in  one  of  his  pockets.  It 
was  a  two-bladed  knife,  and  he  had  used  the  larger 
blade.  Thirty-seven  louis  of  gold  were  also  found, 
together  with  a  book  entitled,  '  Christian  Instructions 
and  Prayers.' 

When  he  was  questioned,  he  said  that  his  name  was 
Francois  Damiens,  and  that  he  had  attempted  to  take 
the  King's  life  for  God  and  the  people.  A  guard 
having  asked  him  whether  the  money  he  had  w^as  the 
pay  he  received  to  perpetrate  his  crime,  he  refused  to 
answer ;  but,  apparently  moved,  he  begged  that  the 
Dauphin  should  take  care  of  himself  and  abstain  from 
driving  out  of  the  Palace. 

These  words,  which  the  man  only  uttered  to  increase 
his  own  importance,  convinced  the  guards  that  Damiens 
was  one  of  the  agents  of  a  vast  plot  which  threatened 
the  days  of  all  the  members  of  the  Royal  Family.  In 
their  excessive  zeal  they  organised  an  extra-judicial 
interrogatory,  and,  forgetting  that  they  were  gentlemen 

H  2 


and  officers,  they  disgraced  themselves  by  torturing  the 

Meanwhile  the  King  had  been  undressed  and  his 
wound  was  examined.  The  utmost  uneasiness  was 
felt  in  consequence  of  the  great  loss  of  blood,  but  the 
doctors  soon  ascertained  that  Louis  was  in  no  danger. 
Damiens'  knife  had  encountered  three  garments,  and  no 
vital  organ  was  injured.  But  the  King,  who  at  first 
had  shown  so  much  coolness,  became  very  agitated 
when  he  heard  one  of  his  courtiers  observe  in  a  low 
voice  that  the  blade  might  be  poisoned.  He  sent  twice 
to  the  murderer  to  know  whether  he  had  dipped  his 
knife  in  some  drug  ;  and  the  monarch's  apprehensions  be- 
came so  great  that  he  asked  for  his  confessor,  insisted 
five  or  six  times  on  receiving  absolution,  summoned  the 
Dauphin,  entrusted  him  with  the  presidency  of  the 
Council,  and  generally  behaved  like  a  man  who  is  con- 
vinced that  death  is  drawing  near. 

The  King's  terror  filled  the  palace  with  consternation ; 
it  incited  Damiens'  improvised  tormentors  to  display 
additional  cruelty  in  the  tortures  they  inflicted  upon  him. 
His  answers  hardly  differed  from  those  he  subsequently 
gave.  In  an  incoherent  and  vague  manner  he  protested 
that  he  never  intended  to  kill  the  King,  but  only  to  give 
him  a  '  good  warning,'  which  would  induce  him  not  to 
persecute  provincial  parliaments,  and  to  dismiss  the 
Archbishop  of  Paris,  who  was  the  cause  of  the  evil. 
Damiens  was  obviously  a  lunatic,  or  nearly  so. 

At  this  stage  of  the  murderer's  interrogatory,  M.  de 
Machault,  keeper  of  the  seals,  arrived.     His  perplexity 


was  great.  His  own  disgrace  must  follow  the  King's 
death  ;  the  Dauphin's  severe  principles  leaving  but  little 
likelihood  of  his  accepting  a  minister  who  had  been 
Madame  de  Pompadour's  creature.  Forgetting  all 
dignity  and  sense  of  humanity,  the  keeper  of  the  seals 
joined  the  officers  in  the  discharge  of  their  disgusting 
work,  and  surpassed  them  in  cruelty.  He  thrust  tongs 
into  the  fire,  and,  when  they  were  red-hot,  he  began  singe- 
ing with  his  own  hands  the  unfortunate  Damiens'  legs, 
taking  care  never  to  pinch  the  same  part  of  the  leg  twice, 
so  that  more  acute  suffering  might  be  inflicted.  The 
violence  of  this  torture 'extorted  no  confession  from  the 
murderer,  who  merely  observed  that  the  King  had  recom- 
mended that  no  harm  should  be  done  to  him.  An  odour 
of  burnt  flesh  filled  the  room  when  the  Duke  d'Ayen 
came  in ;  and  when  he  saw  what  was  going  on,  he 
bitterly  upbraided  M.  de  Machault  and  his  companions 
for  dishonouring  their  swords  in  such  a  manner.  But 
M.  de  Machault  was  not  deterred  from  his  purpose  ; 
he  had  Damiens'  legs  exposed  to  a  fire  until  they  were 
but  one  sore  ;  and  as  he  still  was  silent,  he  threatened 
to  throw  him  into  the  flames.  Fortunately  the  lieutenant 
of  police  arrived,  claimed  Damiens  as  his  prisoner,  and 
took  him  away  to  the  Conciergerie,  where  he  was  in- 
carcerated in  the  cell  once  tenanted  by  Ravaillac, 
Henry  IV.'s  murderer. 

Damiens'  attempt  was  already  known  in  Paris,  and 
the  old  affection  shown  for  the  King  was  rekindling. 
The  Archbishop  of  Paris  ordered  that  prayers  for  his  re- 
covery should  be  said  during  forty-eight  hours,  and  the 


churches  became  too  small  for  the  congregations.  Couriers 
from  Versailles  were  anxiously  waited  for  and  ques- 
tioned ;  and  all  the  provincial  parliaments  sent  ad- 
dresses of  loyalty  to  Louis.  This  effervescence,  how- 
ever, was  of  short  duration  ;  the  King's  wound  was  soon 
healed,  and  a  few  days  after  the  momentous  occurrence 
France  hardly  remembered  that  for  a  few  hours  the 
King  had  again  been  '  the  beloved.' 

As  to  Damiens,  he  was  so  hurt  that  he  could  not 
move.  But  he  showed  no  signs  of  weakness.  When 
questioned,  he  continued  his  incoherent  statements,  and 
showed  that  he  was  more  of  a  religious  fanatic  than  any- 
thing else.  Suspecting  his  impending  fate,  he  gave  it  to  be 
understood  that  his  accomplices  belonged  to  the  highest 
rank  ;  but  a  subsequent  investigation  showed  the  un- 
truth of  his  assertions.  While  preparations  were  being 
made  for  his  trial  he  was  watched  as  if  the  fate  of 
France  depended  on  his  escape.  Damiens  was  con- 
tinually strapped  down  on  a  leather  mattress,  his  right 
hand  only  being  left  free.  Twelve  sergeants  picked 
from  the  French  guards  watched  him  day  and  night,  and 
a  cook  of  the  Court  was  exclusively  entrusted  with  his 
food,  of  which  he  never  allowed  him  to  partake  before 
tasting  it,  for  fear  Damiens  should  be  poisoned.  One 
cannot  but  wonder  at  these  extraordinary  precautions 
against  a  man  whose  proper  place  was  in  a  madhouse. 

He  recovered  sufficiently  to  appear  on  March  17 
before  the  Chambre  de  la  Tournelle.  He  persisted 
in  his  previous  statements,  except  in  so  far  as  they  con- 
cerned  his   accomplices.     He  pretended   that   he  only 


wished  to  give  a  wholesome  warning  to  the  King,  and 
denied  that  his  crime  was  instigated  by  others.  This 
did  not  satisfy  his  judges  ;  every  stratagem  was  resorted 
to  to  get  at  Damiens'  secret ;  and,  contrary  to  habit, 
a  confessor  was  sent  to  him  in  the  course  of  the  trial,  in 
the  hope  that  a  priest  might  obtain  what  judges  could 
not  elicit.     But  all  such  steps  were  of  no  avail. 

On  March  26  the  Parliament  was  in  full  array ;  and 
the  presence  of  the  princes  of  the  blood  and  of  the 
chief  members  of  the  aristocracy  showed  that  the  last 
day  of  the  trial  was  at  hand.  The  procureur-general 
had  drawn  conclusions  which  were  lying  sealed  before 
the  president,  M.  Pasquier.  After  a  few  more  questions 
Damiens  was  again  adjured  to  name  his  accomplices. 
The  conclusions  of  the  procureur  were  then  opened 
and  read  ;  they  proposed  that  Damiens  should  suffer 
the  punishment  awarded  to  regicides,  and  be  tortured 
before  execution.  At  seven  o'clock  the  Court  came  to 
the  following  decision,  which  I  must  quote  for  my 
readers  to  believe  in  its  atrocious  barbarity  : 

*  The  Court  declares  Robert  Francois  Damiens  duly 
convicted  of  the  crime  of  Ihe-majeste^  divine  and  human, 
for  the  very  wicked,  very  abominable,  and  very  detest- 
able parricide  perpetrated  on  the  King's  person ;  and 
therefore  condemns  the  said  Damiens  to  amende 
honorable  before  the  principal  church  of  Paris,  whither 
he  shall  be  taken  in  a  cart,  wearing  only  a  shirt  and 
holding  a  taper  of  the  weight  of  two  pounds  ;  and  then, 
on  his  knees,  he  shall  say  and  declare  that,  wickedly 
and   with  premeditation,  he   has   perpetrated  the  said 


very  wicked,  very  abominable,  and  very  detestable  parri- 
cide, and  wounded  the  King  with  a  knife  in  the  right  side, 
for  which  he  repents  and  begs  pardon  of  God,  the  King, 
and  Justice  ;  and  further  the  Court  orders  that  he  then 
be  taken  to  the  Greve  and,  on  a  scaffold  erected  for  the 
purpose,  that  his  chest,  arms,  thighs,  and  calves  be  burnt 
with  pincers ;  his  right  hand,  holding  the  knife  with 
which  he  committed  the  said  parricide,  burnt  in  sulphur  ; 
that  boiling  oil,  melted  lead,  and  rosin,  and  wax  mixed 
with  sulphur,  be  poured  in  his  wounds ;  and  after 
that  his  body  be  pulled  and  dismembered  by  four  horses, 
and  the  members  and  body  consumed  in  fire,  and  the 
ashes  scattered  to  the  winds.  The  Court  orders  that 
his  property  be  confiscated  to  the  King's  profit ;  that 
before  the  said  execution,  Damiens  be  subjected  to 
question  ordinaire  et  extraordinaire,  to  make  him  confess 
the  names  of  his  accomplices.  Orders  that  the  house  in 
which  he  was  born  be  demolished,  and  that  no  other 
building  be  erected  on  the  spot. 

*  Decreed  by  Parliament  on  March  26,  1757. 


This  sentence,  which  so  minutely  describes  the 
details  of  the  punishment,  cannot  but  inspire  irresistible 
horror.  Formal  deliberations  took  place  at  the  house  of 
the  procureur-g^n^ral  regarding  the  choice  of  pre- 
liminary tortures ;  the  contagion  of  cruelty  extended 
to  the  public,  and  private  individuals  made  sugges- 
tions on  the  subject.  One  proposed  that  matches 
should    be   inserted  under    Damiens'    nails,    and    then 


lighted  ;  another  that  his  teeth  should  be  pulled  out ; 
another  that  he  should  be  partly  flayed  and  a  burning 
liquid  poured  over  his  muscles.  The  surgeons  of  the 
Court  examined  these  proposals,  and  decided  that 
torture  by  the  *  boot '  was  preferable  to  other  means. 

If  I  give  these  sickening  details,  it  is  because 
Damiens'  execution  was  almost  unique  in  its  atrocious 
cruelty.  Singularly  enough,  this,  the  most  horrible  of  in- 
flictions ever  recorded,  occurred  but  a  few  years  before 
the  abolition  of  torture. 




The  authors  of  the  apocryphal  memoirs  published  by 
Sautelet^  found  no  better  means  of  endowing  their  com- 
pilation with  the  appearance  of  authenticity  than  to 
allege  that  these  memoirs  were  written  by  my  grand- 
father. They  represent  him  as  being  present  during 
Damiens'  execution,  of  which  the  details  were  said  to  be 
furnished  by  him,  and  Charles  Jean-Baptiste  Sanson, 
who  was  then  executioner.  Charles  Henri  relates  how 
his  father  became  almost  mad  with  grief,  when  he 
heard  that  he  had  to  dismember  ;  how  he  went  to  Melun 
to  purchase  the  four  horses  required  for  the  occasion  ; 
the  whole  being  spiced  with  details  not  a  whit  more 
accurate.  The  chapter  in  question  is  completed  by  the 
narrative  of  a  visit  which  the  keeper  of  the  seals, 
escorted  by  four  seigneurs,  one  of  whom  was  the  Duke 
de  Richelieu,  paid  to  the  executioner  with  the  object  of 
replacing  the  horses  he  had  bought  for  the  dismem.ber- 
ment  by  weaker  animals,  so  as  to  prolong  the  sufferings 
of  the  culprit. 

'  Fictitious  memoirs  of  Charles  Henri  Sanson,  executioner  during  the 
Revolution,  were  published  in  1832.  Balzac  was  one  of  the  authors  of  this 
work,  which  was  one  of  pure  invention. 


Not  only  did  nothing  of  the  kind  take  place,  M.  de- 
Machault  usually  transmitting  his  orders  to  my  ancestor 
through  the  procureur-general,  or  requesting  him  to  call 
at  his  residence,  but  Charles  Jean-Baptiste  Sanson  could 
take  no  part  in  the  execution  of  Damiens,  as,  in  the 
month  of  January  1754,  he  became  paralysed,  and  also 
because  this  execution  was  not  within  his  province,  but 
that  of  Nicolas  Gabriel  Sanson,  his  younger  brother^^ 
executioner  of  the  Prevote  de  1' Hotel. 

This  office  was  little  more  than  a  sinecure ;  crimes 
tried  by  the  Prevote  had  not  been  met  with  capital  pun- 
ishment for  fifty  years.  When  Gabriel  Sanson  received  an 
order  to  prepare,  not  only  for  the  execution  of  Damiens^ 
but  also  for  his  torture,  he  was  filled  with  apprehension. 
He  spoke  to  M.  Leclerc  de  Brillet,  lieutenant  of  the 
Prevote,  who  gave  him  a  letter  for  the  procureur- 
general,  in  which  he  urged  the  latter,  in  the  interest  of 
all  parties,  to  entrust  the  forthcoming  execution  to  other 
hands.  But,  as  I  said,  Charles  Jean-Baptiste  Sanson  was 
paralysed.  His  son,  Charles  Henri  Sanson,  who  was  ta 
take  his  place,  was  only  seventeen  years  of  age.  He  had 
discharged  his  father's  functions  for  the  last  two  years ; 
but  the  official  title  of  executioner  did  not  belong  to  him,, 
and  it  was  hardly  advisable  to  entrust  so  young  a  man 
with  an  execution  which  was  only  known  by  tradition. 
The  procureur  was  therefore  unable  to  grant  the  request, 
but  he  ordered  that  Charles  Henri,  the  provisional  exe- 
cutioner, and  his  assistants  should  be  at  Gabriel  Sanson's 

It  was  Charles  Henri  who  bought  the  four  horses ; 


he  paid  for  them  432  hvres,  a  large  sum  for  the  time. 
These  horses  were  placed  in  a  stable  of  the  Rue  des 
Vieilles  Garnisons,  behind  the  H6tel-de-Ville.  At  the 
request  of  M.  Leclerc  de  Brillet,  the  archives  were 
searched,  and  papers  on  the  manner  of  carrying  out  the 
execution  were  found  and  handed  to  the  executioner  of 
Prevote  de  I'Hdtel,  whose  terror  was  in  no  wise  dimi- 
nished by  the  communication.  Indeed,  his  feelings 
became  so  strong  that  he  fell  ill.  The  procureur  sum- 
m^oned  him  to  his  presence,  and  upbraided  him  for  what 
he  styled  his  childishness.  The  magistrate's  threats 
did  not  affect  him  much,  for  he  was  speaking  of  giving 
up  his  office,  which  was  his  only  source  of  income,  when 
an  old  questionnaire  whose  father  had  taken  part  in  the 
execution  of  Ravaillac,  and  had  given  some  information 
regarding  the  punishment  of  regicides,  offered  to  under- 
take the  burning  with  pincers. 

The  scaffold  was  erected  in  the  night  of  the  27th. 
On  Monday,  the  28th,  at  six  o'clock  in  the  morning, 
Gabriel  Sanson,  his  nephew  Charles  Henri,  and  their 
assistants  v/ent  to  the  Greve  to  see  if  all  their  direc- 
tions had  been  attended  to.  The  scaffold  was  erected 
in  the  centre  of  a  space  of  a  hundred  square  feet, 
which  was  surrounded  by  thick  wooden  palings.  This 
enclosed  space  had  only  two  entrances ;  one  for  the 
culprit,  the  executioners,  and  the  guards,  the  other  com- 
municating with  the  Hotel-de-Ville. 

They  then  repaired  to  the  Conciergerie,  where  they 
found  the  questionnaire,  who  was  waiting  for  them. 
Soon  afterwards  they  were  joined  by  M.  Lebreton,  the 

Execution  of  damiens.  109. 

clerk  of  the  court,  accompanied  by  MM.  Carmontel  and 
Peuvret,  the  ushers.  They  then  prepared  to  go  to 
Damiens'  cell,  but  on  the  staircase  the  clerk  bethought 
himself  that  it  was  too  small  to  contain  the  whole  party, 
and  it  was  decided  that  the  prisoner  should  be  sent 
for,  and  sentence  read  to  him  in  a  hall  on  the  ground 

Damiens  was  brought  forth :  he  was  carried  in  a 
leather  bag  which  was  closed  over  his  shoulders,  and  only 
allowed  his  head  to  appear.  He  was  extracted  from 
this  kind  of  strait-jacket,  and  told  to  kneel.  Damiens 
listened  to  his  sentence  with  extreme  attention  ;  and  he 
examined  those  who  were  present  with  much  curiosity, 
trying  no  doubt  to  recognise  the  executioner.  His  face 
was  as  yellow  as  wax.  He  could  scarcely  bear  the  glare 
of  daylight ;  but  nevertheless  his  eyes  flashed  with 
unwonted  energy.  When  the  clerk  had  done,  Damiens- 
asked  the  archers  who  had  carried  him  in  to  help  him 
to  rise,  for  his  wounds  were  not  yet  healed,  and  he 
murmured  several  times,  *  Mon  Dieu  !  mon  Dieu  ! ' 

Gabriel  Sanson  now  approached  and  placed  his  hands 
on  his  shoulder.  Damiens  started  and  looked  scared  ; 
but  at  this  moment  the  Cure  de  St.  Paul  approached,  and 
the  countenance  of  the  regicide  became  again  calm  and 
smiling.  The  priest  motioned  to  the  others  to  draw 
back,  and  remained  alone  with  Damiens.  He  spoke  to 
him  in  a  low  voice,  and  Damiens  prayed  with  much 
fervour.  The  priest's  exhortation  seemed  to  impress 
him  deeply.  When  their  prayers  were  finished,  Damiens 
was  oflered  food,  but  he  refused  to  take  anything  but  a 


glass  of  wine,  which,  however,  he  was  unable  to  drink. 
He  was  affected  by  a  kind  of  paroxysm  which,  during  the 
first  part  of  my  professional  career,  I  had  many  occa- 
sions to  remark  in  the  most  courageous  and  stoical  con- 
victs, a  violent  contraction  of  the  muscles  of  the  neck 
which  prevents  the  culprit  from  swallowing. 

Damiens  was  then  removed  to  the  torture-chamber 
where  Presidents  Maupeou  and  Mole,  and  Councillors 
Severt,    Pasquier,   RoUin,  and    Lambelin  were  already 
assembled.      He    was    again    interrogated.       But    no 
question  could  elicit  any  information  concerning  accom- 
plices ;  and  at  length  the  judges  rose  and  told  Damiens 
that  he  must  be  tortured,  since  he  would  not  speak  out. 
The  executioners  came  forward,  and  the  questionnaire  of 
Parliament   enclosed   the  prisoner's    leg  in  the   '  boot,' 
pulling   the   cords    more   tightly  than    he  usually  did. 
The   pain  must   have   been   insufferable,   for  Damiens 
shrieked  ;  his  face  became  livid,  he  threw  back  his  head 
and   nearly   fainted   away.     The  surgeons  approached, 
felt  his  pulse,  and  declared  that  the  fit  was  not  serious. 
Damiens  opened  his  eyes  and  asked  for  drink  ;  a  glass 
•of  water  was  offered  to  him,  but  he  begged  for  wine, 
saying  in  a  broken  voice  that  his  energy  was   failing 
him.     Charles   Henri  Sanson  helped  him  to  carry  the 
glass  to  his  lips.    When  he  had  drunk  he  heaved  a  deep 
sigh,   closed   his  eyes,  and   murmured    a   prayer.     The 
executioners   once  again  surrounded  him  :  two  judges 
had   left   their   seats   and   were    walking    in   the   hall. 
President  Mole  was  very  pale,  and  a  pen  which  he  held 
was  trembling.     Torture  was  begun  again,  and  for  two 


hours  and  a  quarter  the  unfortunate  Damiens  endured 
the  most  excruciating  sufferings.  At  the  eighth  bro- 
dequin  the  surgeons  said  the  sufferer  could  stand  no 
more,  and  the  judges  rose  to  depart  with  an  alacrity 
which  proved  that  perhaps  they  could  not  see  any  more 
either.  The  boot  was  taken  off.  Damiens  tried  in- 
effectually to  raise  his  legs,  and  then,  bending  forward, 
he  looked  at  his  broken  limbs  with  an  air  of  grief. 
Meanwhile  the  proces-verbal  was  finished,  and  Damiens 
had  to  sign  it.  The  regicide  was  then  taken  to  the 
chapel  of  the  Conciergerie,  where  he  remained  with  the 
Cure  de  St.  Paul  and  another  priest. 

Profound  consternation  was  depicted  on  every  face, 
and  yet  Damiens  had  only  endured  a  small  part  of  the 
sufferings  which  were  in  store  for  him.  Charles  Henri 
Sanson  and  two  assistants  remained  with  the  prisoner, 
to  take  him  to  the  Place  de  Greve,  while  Gabriel  Sanson 
repaired  to  the  scaffold  to  see  if  all  was  ready.  The 
torturer  who  had  undertaken  the  burning  with  pincers, 
and  who  curiously  enough  bore  the  name  of  one  of  the 
great  seigneurs  of  the  time,  Soubise,  had  promised  to 
procure  all  the  necessaries  indicated  in  the  sentence. 
On  nearing  the  scaffold  Gabriel  Sanson  immediately 
perceived  that  Soubise  was  drunk  and  incapable  of  dis- 
charging his  duties.  Seized  with  apprehension,  he  asked 
to  see  the  lead,  sulphur,  wax,  and  rosin  which  the  old 
drunkard  had  undertaken  to  purchase  ;  the  man  had 
procured  nothing,  and  at  the  moment  when  the  prisoner 
was  expected  to  arrive,  Gabriel  discovered  that  the  wood 
of  the  pile  was  damp,  and  could  scarcely  be  set  alight. 


Gabriel  Sanson  lost  his  presence  of  mind  ;  and  for  a 
time  the  scaffold  was  a  scene  of  indescribable  confusion  ; 
the  assistants  ran  to  and  fro,  all  spoke  at  the  same  time, 
and  the  unfortunate  executioner  of  the  Prevote  de  1' Hotel 
tore  his  hair,  deploring  the  terrible  responsibility  he 
had  assumed. 

The  criminal  lieutenant  came  up,  and  put  an  end  to 
the  scene.  He  severely  reprimanded  Gabriel  Sanson, 
and  told  him  he  would  send  him  to  prison  for  a  fortnight 
for  neglecting  his  duties  ;  he  then  ordered  him  to  re- 
turn to  the  chapel  and  send  Charles  Henri  Sanson  to 
the  Greve  in  his  stead.  The  assistants  were  sent  to  the 
neighbouring  grocers  to  purchase  what  was  missing ; 
but  the  crowd  followed  them,  they  were  recognised  in 
all  the  shops  they  applied  to,  and  the  tradesmen  refused 
to  sell  the  articles  they  asked  for,  or  said  they  had  not 
got  them.  If  coercion  had  not  been  resorted  to,  nothing 
could  have  been  procured. 

The  difficulties  were  so  great  that  preparations  were 
not  completed  when  the  culprit  arrived,  and  he  had  to 
sit  on  the  steps  of  the  scaffold  while  the  last  arrange- 
ments for  his  death  were  being  made  before  him.  He  had 
recovered  his  firmness,  and  looked  calmly  about  him. 
He  asked  to  be  taken  to  the  Hotel-de-Ville ;  he  begged 
the  magistrates  to  protect  his  wife  and  daughter  who 
were  ignorant  of  his  intention  to  murder  the  King, 
and  swore  that  he  had  no  accomplices.  He  was  then 
taken  back  to  the  scaffold. 

The  chafing-dish  on  which  the  sulphur  was  being 
burnt  with  the   hot   coals   filled  the  atmosphere  with 


acrid  vapour.  Damiens  coughed,  and,  while  the  as- 
sistants were  making  him  fast  to  the  platform,  he 
looked  at  his  right  hand  with  the  same  expression  of 
sadness  which  had  appeared  on  his  face  when  looking  at 
his  legs  after  torture.  His  arm  was  tied  to  an  iron  bar 
so  that  the  wrist  should  over-reach  the  last  board  of  the 
platform.  Gabriel  Sanson  brought  the  chafing-dish. 
When  the  blue  flanie  touched  Damiens'  skin  he  uttere<3 
a  frightful  shriek,  and  tried  to  break  his  bonds.  But 
when  the  first  pang  had  shot  through  him  he  raised  his; 
head  and  looked  at  his  burning  hand  without  mani- 
festing his  feelings  otherwise  than  by  grinding  his  teeth. 
This  first  part  of  the  execution  lasted  three  minutes. 

Charles  Henri  Sanson  saw  the  chafing-dish  trembling 
in  his  uncle's  hands.  By  his  pallor,  which  was  almost  as. 
deathly  as  the  sufferer's,  and  the  shudder  which  made  his 
limbs  shake,,  he  perceived  that  he  could  not  proceed 
with  the  burning  with  red-hot  pincers  ;  and  he  offered 
a  hundred  livres  to  one  of  the  valets  if  he  would  under . 
take  the  horrible  task.  The  man,  whose  name  was 
Andre  Legris,  accepted.  The  remainder  of  the  execu- 
tion was  proceeded  with ;  every  clause  of  the  atrocious 
sentence  was  literally  carried  out,  and,  when  the  four 
horses  had  dismembered  the  body,  the  remains  of 
Damiens  were  thrown  on  the  pile. 

It  was  discovered  that  the  victim's  hair,  which  was 
brown  when  he  was  brought  to  the  Greve,  had  turned 
as  white  as  snow.^ 

'  The  translator  has  thought  fit  to  suppress  some  of  the  really  too 
horrible  details  of  this  execution  ;  and  if  he  has  preserved  its  main  features, 

VOL.  I.  I 


The  execution  of  Damiens  produced  so  fearful  an 
impression  on  Gabriel  Sanson,  that  he  was  induced  to 
throw  up  the  office  of  executioner  of  the  Prevote  de 
THotel.  He  gave  it  to  his  nephew  in  return  for  a  yearly- 
stipend  of  two  thousand  four  hundred  livres.  Charles 
Sanson  henceforth  discharged  two  functions  which  had 
hitherto  been  separate. 

it  is  because  he  thought  he  had  no  right  to  divest  this  historical  occurrence 
of  that  which  might  fully  impress  the  reader  with  its  atrocious  cruelty,  with- 
.out  entering  into  too  sickening  details. — N.  Ed. 




On  May  6,  1766,  the  Parliament  assembled  in  Court  of 
Justice  condemned  Thomas  Arthur  de  Lally-Tollendal, 
lieutenant-general,  and  commander  of  the  French  forces 
in  East  India,  to  capital  punishment, /^r  betraying  the 
interests  of  the  Ki^ig. 

Iniquitous  as  this  sentence  was,  it  should  be  said 
that  it  was  partially  supported  by  public  opinion,  which, 
however,  was  so  warm  at  a  later  period  in  asking  for 
Count  de  Lally-Tollendal's  rehabilitation.  Our  mishaps 
in  India  and  the  loss  of  our  colonies  had  exasperated 
the  national  pride  which  the  French  are  sufficiently  dis- 
posed to  exaggerate.  Thomas  Arthur  de  Lally-Tol- 
lendal  was  of  Irish  extraction.  His  family  had  followed 
the  exiled  Stuarts.  He  became  a  soldier  when  he  was 
only  a  child.  At  twelve  years  of  age  he  held  a  com- 
mission in  Dillon's  Irish  regiment,  and  he  took  part  in 
the  siege  of  Barcelona.  He  promptly  obtained  the 
command  of  a  regiment,  which  took  his  name  in  1740; 
and  at  the  age  of  thirty-seven  he  was  appointed  lieutenant- 

He  devised  a  plan  for  landing  10,000  men  on  the 
I  2 


English  coast,  to  support  the  rights  of  the  Pretender, 
This  idea,  which  was  as  bold  as  it  was  impracticable, 
could  not  be  carried  out,  although  Count  de  Lally  de- 
voted a  large  part  of  his  fortune  to  its  execution.  His 
dislike  for  the  English  and  his  extreme  bravery  induced 
the  Government  to  entrust  to  him  the  chief  command  of 
the  colonial  troops  ;  but  the  violence  of  his  temper,  his 
obstinacy,  and  especially  his  contempt  for  all  means  of 
action  except  brutal  strength,  were  destined  to  lead  him 
into  mistakes  in  a  position  demanding  more  knowledge 
of  politics  than  science  of  war.  Sixteen  years  before 
Lally-Tollendal's  appointment,  Dupleix,  with  scanty 
forces,  at  enmity  with  the  Company,  receiving  neither 
help  nor  subsidies  from  the  mother  country,  had  held 
in  check  English  power  in  the  Indian  peninsula  by  mere 
diplomatic  proficiency.  Lally  knew  how  to  conquer; 
but  he  was  incapable  of  studying  and  detecting  the 
secrets  of  Dupleix's  policy.  He  began  by  taking  St. 
David  by  storm  ;  he  also  captured  Goudelour,  and  swept 
the  Coromandel  coast.  At  St.  David  he  permitted 
frightful  excesses.  His  ill-paid  troops  rushed  into  the 
town  and  ransacked  it.  At  the  same  time  Lally,  in  his 
contempt  for  the  Hindoo  religion,  violated  the  most 
revered  sanctuaries,  and  caused  natives  suspected 
of  being  spies  to  be  blown  from  cannon.  The 
Hindoos  who  had  remained  with  the  French  now  left 
them.  Deprived  of  their  co-operation,  and  against 
the  advice  of  his  generals,  he  marched  forward.  The 
English  retreated  before  him ;  but  when  he  was  in 
the  heart  of  the  country  they  attacked  him,  and  Lally, 


at  length  aware  of  his  mistake,  but  too  late  to  repair  it, 
retraced  his  steps,  harassed  in  a  retreat  which  cost  him 
a  quarter  of  his  army.  Such  a  defeat,  however,  would 
not  discourage  a  man  like  Lally.  He  attacked  and 
captured  Arcate,  and  besieged  Madras,  which  soon 
fell  into  his  hands.  His  soldiers  repeated,  or  rather 
transcended,  the  horrors  of  the  pillage  of  St.  David. 
But  4,000  Englishmen  had  taken  refuge  in  the  white 
tower  called  Fort  St.  George,  where  they  defeated  all 
attacks.  At  the  same  time  the  Dekhan  army,  the 
command  of  which  Lally  had  taken  from  Bussi,  one  of 
Dupleix's  lieutenants,  to  entrust  it  to  the  Marquis  de 
Conflans,  was  beaten  and  captured  at  Masulapatam. 

To  relate  the  sequel  of  Lally's  career  in  India 
would  be  an  infringement  of  history.  The  end  of  his 
resistance  is  well  known ;  from  disaster  to  disaster, 
Lally  came  to  be  surrounded  and  besieged  in  Pondi- 
cherry,  which,  however,  he  defended  with  extraordinary 
bravery.  At  length  he  was  compelled  to  assemble  a 
council  of  war  to  discuss  the  conditions  of  his  capitula- 
tion. General  Coote  refused  to  accept  anything  except 
an  unconditional  surrender ;  and  Lally-Tollendal,  to- 
gether with  the  greater  part  of  his  soldiers,  were  sent  to 
England  as  prisoners. 

The  news  of  this  disaster  excited  general  indignation 
in  France.  Lally-Tollendal's  numerous  enemies  threw 
the  brunt  of  the  misfortunes  of  the  French  arms  on  his 
shoulders.  Not  only  were  his  military  talents  and  his 
courage  impeached,  but  it  was  said  that  he  had  wasted 
the  public  resources,  and  kept  the  money  sent  to  him 


to  pay  his  soldiers.  Lally  was  in  London  and  had 
nothing  to  fear ;  but  on  hearing  of  the  rumours  that 
were  current,  he  forgot  the  dangers  that  might  threaten 
his  life.  He  solicited  of  the  English  Government  leave 
to  return  to  France  on  parole,  and  arrived  in  Paris  not  as 
a  culprit,  but  rather  as  a  prosecutor,  threatening  his 
enemies  with  prompt  revenge. 

However  great  public  anger  might  be  at  the  time 
against  the  man  to  whom  was  attributed  the  disgrace  of 
the  French  armies,  the  Government  did  not  care  to  have 
Lally  arrested.  Perhaps  the  Ministry  had  no  wish  to 
sacrifice  the  innocent  accomplice  of  the  faults  for  the 
greater  portion  of  which  the  Government  of  Louis  XV. 
was  responsible. 

Count  Lally's  enemies,  however,  were  powerful,  and 
an  order  of  arrest  was  at  length  issued.  The  Count's 
relations  and  friends  urged  him  to  return  to  England 
before  it  was  too  late ;  but  the  fiery  general  would  not 
hear  of  a  retreat,  and  implored  the  King  to  send  him  to 
the  Bastille,  where  he  was  imprisoned  on  November  15, 

His  captivity  was  not  a  severe  one,  and  he  doubtless 
had  little  idea  of  the  fate  which  was  in  store  for  him  ;  he 
was  allowed  to  walk  about  the  prison,  and  to  receive  his 
friends  while  preparations  for  his  trial  were  being  made. 
The  trial  lasted  more  than  nineteen  months.  Far  from 
appeasing  the  hatred  of  his  enemies,  his  misfortunes  in- 
flamed the  ardour  with  which  they  called  for  judgment 
upon  him.  On  August  3  a  petition  was  sent  to  the  King 
by  M.  Legvis  and  the  members  of  the  Superior  Council 


of  Pondicherry,  who,  offended  to  the  highest  degree  in 
their  honour  and  reputation  by  the  imputations  of 
M.  de  Lally,  asked  for  a  judicial  sanction  of  his  or  their 
conduct.  Moreover,  the  Superior  of  the  Jesuits  of 
Pondicherry,  Father  Lavaur,  returned  to  Paris  at  this 
time ;  and  he  was  soliciting  a  pension  for  the  services  he 
had  rendered  in  India  to  the  French  Government  when 
he  died.  His  papers  were  seized  and  searched  ;  and, 
besides  a  large  sum  in  gold  which  was  found  at  his 
residence,  a  long  memoir  was  discovered  in  which  Count 
Lally  was  charged  with  malversation  and  treason. 
Noisy  as  were  the  clamours  of  his  enemies,  so  little 
reason  could  be  given  for  a  charge  of  dishonesty  that  the 
Jesuit's  document  was  the  only  basis  taken  by  M.  Pas- 
quier,  who  conducted  the  procedure  of  this  grave  affair. 

As  for  the  Count,  he  was  so  convinced  of  his  own 
innocence  that  he  was  imprudent  enough  to  impeach 
the  officers  who  had  served  under  his  orders,  together 
with  the  administrators  of  the  colony.  He  charged 
them  with  such  violence  that  his  death  and  condemna- 
tion became  indispensable  for  their  justification. 
Letters-patent  of  the  King  deferred  Lally 's  trial  to  the 
Grande  Cham.bre  des  Tournelles.  When  the  accused 
appeared  before  his  judges,  he  was  no  more  able  to 
control  his  temper  than  when  he  was  in  India.  He 
disputed  the  ground  step  by  step,  protesting  against 
the  charge,  answering,  fuming,  retorting,  stigmatising 
the  cowardice  of  some,  the  cupidity  of  others,  and  hinting 
that  the  only  guilty  party  was  the  powerless  Govern- 
ment, which  had    neither  assisted   him   in  his  triumph 


nor  in  his  misfortunes.  The  vehemence  of  his  speech, 
the  eloquent  expression  of  his  leonine  head,  which, 
even  in  silence,  he  raised  with  pride  and  defiance,  and 
the  manner  in  which  he  conducted  his  own  defence, 
produced  a  favourable  impression  on  the  public, 
and  diminished  the  hostility  of  the  masses.  It  be- 
came evident  that  treason  only  existed  in  the  im- 
agination of  Lally's  enemies  ;  or  why  had  he  volun- 
tarily returned  to  France  and  thrown  himself  between 
the  lion's  jaws  t  The  charge  of  malversation  was 
equally  groundless  ;  but  to  prove  Lally's  abuse  of  power, 
violence  against  the  administrators  of  the  colony  and  his 
soldiers,  and  cruelty  to  the  natives,  there  were  but  too 
many  witnesses ;  and  for  a  prejudiced  tribunal  this 
was  a  sufficient  pretext  to  inflict  capital  sentence. 

This  sentence  was  pronounced  on  May  6,  1766. 
Thomas  Arthur,  Count  de  Lally-ToUendal,  was  con- 
demned to  be  decapitated,  as  duly  convicted  of  having 
betrayed  the  interests  of  the  King,  of  the  State,  and  of 
the  Company,  and  of  having  abused  his  authority. 

Lally's  pride  inspired  him  with  so  high  a  sense  of 
his  own  importance  that,  like  Marshal  de  Biron,  he  had 
never  admitted  the  possibility  of  such  a  result.  Many 
indications  of  his  impending  fate  should  have  ap- 
prised him  of  the  danger.  One  morning  the  major  of 
the  Bastille  was  taking  him  to  Parliament,  and  a  crowd 
surrounded  the  carriage.  Lally  having  tried  to  look  out 
of  the  window,  this  officer  told  him  that  he  had  orders 
to  kill  him  at  the  slightest  word  he  should  address  to 


the  people.  Again,  a  few  days  before  judgment,  and  as 
he  always  appeared  dressed  as  a  general  and  wearing  all 
his  orders,  the  President  directed  the  major  to  deprive 
him  of  these.  The  officer  intimated  his  orders  to  the 
Count,  and  begged  him  not  to  oblige  him  to  have 
recourse  to  violence.  Lally  answered  that  he  would 
rather  part  with  his  life  than  with  the  rewards  of  his 
bravery  and  devotion  to  the  King.  A  struggle  followed ; 
Lally  was  seized  by  the  soldiers,  who  had  to  tear  his 
uniform  before  they  could  deprive  him  of  his  epaulettes 
and  decorations.  After  sentence  was  read  out  to  him, 
he  remained  dumbfounded  and  stupefied.  But  his 
silence  was  short.  He  burst  out  with  curses,  and  called 
his  judges  executioners  and  assassins.  He  recovered 
his  self-possession  when  taken  back  to  the  Bastille  ;  ex- 
pressed his  regret  to  the  officer  for  what  had  occurred, 
and  embraced  him.  He  went  to  bed  and  slept  pro- 
foundly for  a  few  hours.  At  seven  o'clock  in  the  even- 
ing he  was  roused  and  told  that  M.  Pasquier,  who  had 
reported  on  his  trial,  wished  to  see  him.  He  rose  and 
told  the  gaoler  to  introduce  the  visitor. 

Many  petitions  had  been  addressed  to  the  King. 
M.  de  Choiseul  himself  interceded  in  favour  of  Lally  ;  but 
Louis  XV.  was  inflexible.  However,  it  was  with  soft  words 
and  hints  of  the  possibility  of  a  reprieve  that  M.  Pasquier 
spoke  to  the  prisoner ;  but  he  used  the  word  '■  crime '  in 
qualifying  the  acts  which  the  Count  deemed  worthy  of 
reward,  and  Lally  heard  no  more.  He  was  seized  with 
a  fit  of  fury  greater  than  any  he  ever  had  experienced 


before,  and,  seizing  a  compass  which  he  used  to  draw  the 
map  of  the  former  scene  of  his  success  and  reverses,  he 
stabbed  himself  near  the  heart.  The  weapon  encountered 
a  rib,  and  only  inflicted  a  slight  wound  ;  the  gaolers 
rushed  upon  him  and  wrenched  the  compass  from  his 
hand.  But  despair  gave  extraordinary  strength  to  the 
unfortunate  old  man  ;  he  shook  off  their  grip  and  made 
for  M.  Pasquier.  Soldiers  had  to  be  called  in  to  prevent 

M.  Pasquier  was  so  annoyed  by  this  scene  that  he 
forgot  what  was  due  to  an  illustrious  victim  ;  he  ordered 
Tollendal  to  be  gagged,  and  asked  that,  in  consequence 
of  the  general's  attempt  to  commit  suicide,  the  hour 
of  execution  should  be  advanced. 

On  the  preceding  night  Charles  Henri  Sanson  had 
been  told  to  be  ready  on  the  following  day,  at  two 
o'clock  in  the  afternoon.  Thus  the  exeattion  of  Lally- 
Tollejtdal  was  fixed  before  sentence  was  passed. 

Charles  Sanson  was  at  home,  waiting  for  definite 
orders,  when  a  carriage  drove  up  before  the  door  ;  and 
from  it  alighted  his  father,  who  some  years  before  had 
retired  to  the  little  town  of  Brie-Comte  Robert.  Jean- 
Baptiste  Sanson  was  deeply  agitated  ;  he  had  heard  of 
the  result  of  Lally's  trial,  and  the  Count's  name  had 
stirred  in  his  mind  some  curious  recollections. 

Five-and-thirty  years  before,  a  few  young  raen,  who 
had  spent  the  evening  in  one  of  the  houses  of  the  suburbs 
of  Paris  which  was  afterwards  to  be  called  the  Faubourg 
Poissonniere,  lost  their  way,  and  splashed  through  the 
mud,  completely  at  a  loss  as  to  the  direction  they  should 

LALL  V-  TOLLENDAL.  1 23. 

take.  At  length  they  perceived  at  the  end  of  a  street  a 
row  of  brilliantly  lighted  windows  on  the  facade  of  a 
large  house.  They  heard  a  faint  murmur  of  instruments- 
which  issued  from  the  premises,  and  having  peeped 
through  the  garden  gate  they  saw  the  figures  of  dancers, 
whirling  past  the  windows.  The  young  men  were 
somehat  elated  with  wine,  and  they  resolved  to  join  in 
the  fun  if  they  could.  They  boldly  knocked  at  the 
door,  and  gave  their  names  to  the  servant,  requesting 
the  honour  of  admittance  to  the  ball.  The  master 
immediately  appeared.  He  was  a  man  of  about 
thirty,  with  a  gay  face  and  a  somewhat  distinguished 
appearance  ;  and  the  elegance  of  his  dress  pointed  to  a 
higher  social  station  than  the  young  men  had  sup- 
posed when  they  plied  his  knocker.  He  greeted  them 
with  courtesy,  and  heard  their  request  with  the  smile 
of  a  man  who  understood  the  frolic  of  youth.  He 
told  them  that  the  ball  was  given  on  the  occasion  of  his 
marriage,  added  that  it  would  doubtless  be  for  him  a 
great  honour  to  receive  his  visitors  in  his  ball-room,  but. 
that  the  society  they  wished  to  join  was  not,  perhaps, 
worthy  of  them. 

The  young  men,  however,  insisted ;  and  the  bride- 
groom, having  conducted  them  to  the  ball-room,  intro- 
duced them  to  his  young  wife  and  to  his  family. 

At  the  expense  of  this  family  the  young  noblemen 
no  doubt  intended  to  laugh ;  but,  with  the  exception  of 
the  bridegroom,  all  the  good  people  retained,  in  the  midst 
of  their  pleasures,  a  dark  and  severe  aspect  which 
damped  the  gaiety  they  had  anticipated.     They  looked 


with  surprise  at  these  curious  guests,  whose  faces  re- 
mained rather  grim  and  sinister  even  when  they  had 
to  express  the  good-will  they  felt  for  the  strangers. 
Some  of  the  women,  however,  were  pretty  ;  the  noblemen 
were  in  high  spirits,  and  too  young  and  light-hearted  to 
;give  attention  to  the  circumstance.  They  danced  all 
night,  and  seemed  delighted  at  the  whole  proceedings. 

At  daybreak,  and  as  they  were  about  to  retire,  the 
master  of  the  house  asked  them  whether  they  wished  to 
know  the  name  and  quality  of  the  host  of  whose  hospi- 
tality they  had  kindly  consented  to  partake.  The  young 
men  rather  sarcastically  acquiesced,  expressing  their 
thanks  for  the  pleasant  time  they  had  spent.  The  young 
bridegroom,  still  smiling,  then  told  them  that  his  name 
was  Jean-Baptiste  Sanson,  that  he  was  the  executioner, 
and  that  most  of  the  gentlemen  whose  pleasures  they 
had  shared  exercised  the  same  profession. 

This  piece  of  information  very  visibly  disturbed  two 
of  the  young  men  ;  but  the  third  one,  who  wore  the 
uniform  of  Dillon's  Irish  regiment,  and  who  was  remark- 
able for  the  manly  beauty  of  his  features,  burst  out 
laughing,  and  said  that  he  had  long  wished  to  make 
the  acquaintance  of  the  functionary  who  decapitated, 
broke,  and  burned  so  many  good  people,  and  he  was 
very  glad  of  the  opportunity.  He  then  begged  Sanson 
to  have  the  kindness  to  show  them  his  instruments. 

Jean-Baptiste  hastened  to  comply  with  the  wish, 
and  took  the  party  to  a  room  which  was  the  arse- 
nal of  his  tools  of  torture  and  death.  While  the 
officer's  companions  were  expressing    astonishment    at 


the  curious  shape  of  certain  instruments  he  examined 
the  swords  of  justice  with  much  attention.  Jean- 
Baptiste  Sanson  took  one  down  and  handed  it  to  the 
young  rnan.  This  sword  was  the  same  which  Charles 
Sanson  had  shown  to  the  Marquis  de  Creqy,  at  the 
time  of  Count  de  Horn's  trial.  The  officer  looked  at  it 
carefully,  and  taking  it  with  both  hands  he  wielded  it 
with  uncommon  strength  and  dexterity,  asking  his  host 
whether  it  was  possible  to  strike  off  a  head  with  it  at  a 
single  blow.  Jean-Baptiste  answered  in  the  affirmative, 
and  added  jocosely  that  if  ever  the  fate  cf  MM.  de  Bout- 
teville,  de  Cinq  Mars,  or  de  Rohan'  gave  him  the 
opportunity,  he  could  pledge  his  word  that  he  would  not 
make  him  suffer. 

The  young  officer,  whose  curiosity  might  almost  be 
termed  a  presentiment,  was  Count  de  Lally-Tollendal. 

Jean-Baptiste  Sanson  never  forgot  the  adventure  ; 
and,  being  struck  by  the  strange  concourse  of  circum- 
stances which  now  seemed  to  urge  him  to  the  dis- 
charge of  his  promise,  he  resolved  to  honour  his  en- 

Charles  Henri  Sanson  could  hardly  refrain  from 
smiling  when  he  heard  his  father  speak.  The  muscles  of 
his  right  side,  which  had  been  paralysed,  were  now 
strong  again  ;  but  he  was,  on  the  whole,  weak  and  old. 
His  hair  was  as  white  as  snow,  and  although  he  was  only 
sixty  he  appeared  much  older  than  he  really  was.  It  was 
not  without  trouble  that  Charles  Henri  induced  him  ta 
give  up  his  intention  ;  and  he  only  did  so  on  the  under- 
standing   that    his    son    in    person    should    wield    the 


sword,  and  that  he  himself  should  superintend  the  exe- 

While  they  were  conversing,  a  police  officer  came  to 
announce  to  Charles  Henri  that  the  hour  appointed  for 
the   execution   had    been  advanced,  and   that   he  was 
impatiently   expected   at   the   Bastille.      Jean-Baptiste 
chose   among   the   swords   that   which,    five-and-thirty 
years  before,  M.  de  Lally  had  held  ;  and  father  and  son 
repaired  in  great  haste  to  the  State  prison.     The  vesti- 
l)ule  which  led  to  the  prisoner's  cell  was  filled  with  soldiers 
and  policemen.     When   Lally  heard  of  the  change  of 
hour,  he  exclaimed  that  he  cared  not,  and  that,  although 
lie  had  been  gagged  in  prison,  they  could  not  prevent 
him  from  addressing  the  people  while  being  led  to  exe- 
cution.    Thick    as  were  the  walls  of  the  Bastille,  the 
sighs  and  cries  of  the   prisoners   sometimes   traversed 
them  and  excited  popular  sympathy.     The   unworthy 
manner  in  which  Lally  was  treated  had  become  known, 
and,  on  the  whole,  public  opinion  was  favourable  to  him. 
Anger  had  made  place  for  pity  ;    the  fate  of  the  unfor- 
tunate and   illustrious  old   man  was  out  of  proportion 
to  his  mistakes.     The  authorities  feared  that  his  violent 
and    impassioned  address  might  induce    the  people  to 
rescue  him,  and  it  was  ordered  that  he  should  remain 
gagged   while   being   led    to    death.      The   officers  of 
justice  did  not  wait  for  the  executioner  to  pinion  Lally, 
who  resisted  with  extreme  energy ;  and  an  iron  gag  was 
thrust  into  his  mouth. 

These  new  violences  had  just  taken  place  when  the 
two  Sansons  arrived.     Jean-Baptiste  was  much  moved. 

•      LALLY-TOLLENDAL.  127 

The  cell  bore  the  traces  of  the  struggles  which  had  just 
taken  place  there.  The  table  was  upset,  the  papers  fly- 
ing about  the  cell,  the  chairs  broken.  Lally  himself  was 
stretched  on  the  bed,  bruised  and  his  clothes  torn  to 
tatters.  Blood  was  flowing  from  two  deep  gashes 
on  his  face.  A  groan,  which  was  more  like  a  threaten- 
ing cry  than  an  expression  of  pain,  issued  from  his 
throat,  in  spite  of  the  gag,  and  from  time  to  tim.e  he 
shook  his  long  white  hair  as  a  lion  shakes  his  mane. 
All  the  persons  present  were  still  under  the  im- 
pression of  the  fray  ;  some  were  trembling  and  afl'ected, 
others  were  irritated.  When  the  magistrate  who  had 
ordered  Lally  to  be  gagged  saw  Charles  Henri  Sanson, 
he  turned  to  him,  exclaiming,  in  a  loud  and  rough  voice  : 
'■  And  now  this  is  your  business  ! ' 
The  prisoner  heard  him,  and  he  scanned  the  execu- 
tioner. He  also,  most  probably,  remembered  the  night 
he  had  spent  in  the  Rue  d'Enfer. 

Charles  Henri  was  about  to  order  his  assistants  to 
take  up  the  prisoner  and  carry  him  down  when  his 
father  stepped  forward,  saying  that  he  alone  had  a  right 
to  command.  He  knelt  down  before  Lally,  and,  per- 
ceiving that  the  cords  were  so  tight  that  they  almost 
entered  the  flesh,  he  ordered  the  assistants  to  slacken 
them.  Lally's  eyes  then  turned  to  the  old  executioner. 
He  recognised  him,  for  a  smile  came  to  his  face,  and  a 
tear  to  his  eye.  When,  after  traversing  the  immense 
crowd  which  filled  the  streets,  the  executioner's  cart 
reached  the  Place  de  Greve,  the  prisoner  had  to  stop  for 
a  moment  to  hear  his  sentence  read  to  him.     When  the 


clerk  of  the  Court  came  to  the  words,  ^  for  betraying  the 
interests  of  the  King!  Lally  pushed  him  away,  and 
would  hear  no  more.  One  could  see  in  his  face  how 
much  he  suffered  at  being  prevented  from  protesting 
against  the  charges  brought  against  him.  Supported 
by  Jean-Baptiste,  he  ascended  the  scaffold  with  a  firm 
and  light  step.  When  he  reached  the  platform  he  cast 
a  proud  look  at  the  crowd  below — a  look,  my  grand- 
father told  us,  which  was  more  eloquent  than  anything 
he  could  have  said.  He  then  turned  to  the  old  execu- 
tioner. Jean-Baptiste  Sanson  showed  him  his  withered 
arm,  and  pointing  to  his  son  who  was  standing  at  the 
other  end  of  the  scaffold  so  as  to  conceal  the  sight  of 
the  sword  from  the  unfortunate  Lally,  he  said  that  he 
was  too  old  to  strike,  and  that  his  promise  must  be  dis- 
charged by  a  stronger  arm  and  steadier  hand  than  his. 

Lally  thanked  him  by  an  inclination  of  the  head. 
Charles  Henri  Sanson  now  approached,  and  he  was 
about  to  raise  his  sword  when  old  Jean-Baptiste  stopped 
him.  With  a  firm  hand,  he  took  the  gag  out  of  the 
Count's  mouth,  and  bowing  respectfully :  '  Monsieur  le 
Comte,'  he  said,  '  I  am  the  master  here.  As  it  happened 
thirty-five  years  ago,  you  are  my  guest.  Accept  the 
supreme  hospitality  which  I  then  promised  you.  You 
can  speak  if  you  like.' 

*  I  have  spoken  enough  to  men,'  answered  Lally  ;  '  I 
have  now  to  speak  with  God.'  And  he  begun  in  a  loud 
voice  a  prayer  which  I  faithfully  transcribe,  such  as  my 
grandfather  wrote  it  out  from  memory  after  the  execu- 
tion : 


*0h  Lord,  You  see  that  I  am  innocent  of  the 
crimes  ascribed  to  me ;  but  I  sinned  against  You  when 
I  attempted  to  destroy  myself,  and  for  this  I  am  justly 
punished.  I  receive  from  the  hands  of  this  man,  placed 
in  my  way  by  Your  unfathomable  Providence,  the  death 
that  I  wished  to  inflict  upon  myself.  I  bless  You,  in 
Your  justice,  for  You  will  avenge  my  memory  and  punish 
the  real  traitors.' 

After  pronouncing  these  words  in  a  very  distinct 
voice,  Lally  asked  Charles  Henri  Sanson  to  come  for- 

*  Young  man,'  he  said,  '  free  me  of  these  bonds.' 

*  Monsieur  le  Comte,  your  hands  must  remain  bound 
behind  your  back.' 

*  Is  it,  then,  necessary  to  tie  my  hands  in  order  to  cut 
off  my  head  ^  I  have  seen  death  often  enough  as  near 
as  now,  and  do  they  think  I  am  going  to  resist .? ' 

*  Monsieur  le  Comte,  it  is  the  custom.' 

'  Then  help  me  to  take  off  this  vest  and  give  it  to  your 

Charles  Henri  obeyed,  and  took  off  the  vest,  which 
was  made  of  a  valuable  golden  tissue  of  India.  Each 
button  was  a  large  ruby  of  the  finest  water.  After  this, 
the  Count  laid  his  head  on  the  block,  and  said,  with 
nervous  animation  : 

*  And  now,  you  can  strike  ! ' 

Charles  Henri  raised  his  weapon,  and  let  it  fall  on 
the  old  man's  neck.  But  the  hair,  which  had  not  been 
cut,  but  only  raised,  obstructed  the  blade,  and  the  head 
did  not  fall. 

VOL.  I.  K 


The  blow  was  so  violent  that  Lally  was  struck  down 
to  the  earth.  But  he  sprang  to  his  feet  in  a  moment, 
and  he  glared  at  Jean-Baptiste  Sanson  with  a  lament- 
able expression  of  indignation  and  reproach. 

At  this  sight,  the  old  executioner  rushed  towards  his 
son,  and,  suddenly  recovering  his  former  strength,  he  took 
the  bloody  sword  from  his  hands,  and  before  the  cry  of 
horror  which  rose  from  the  crowd  subsided,  Lally's  head 
was  rolling  on  the  scaffold. 

The  old  nobleman's  last  prayer  was  partly  granted. 
The  trial  of  the  Count  de  Lally-Tollendal  was  revised 
and  his  memory  was  solemnly  rehabilitated. 




After  rusting  for  seven-and-thirty  years,  the  political 
scaffold  had  just  been  erected  again  for  Lally-Tollendal ; 
and  the  sword  of  justice  had  scarcely  been  restored  to 
the  scabbard,  when  it  had  again  to  be  drawn  against 
another  nobleman,  as  interesting  for  youth  and  courage 
as  for  the  disproportion  between  the  offence  and  the 

Towards  the  end  of  June  1766,  Charles  Henri  Sanson 
received  an  order  to  start  immediately  for  Abbeville 
to  carry  out  a  capital  sentence.  The  despatch,  and  the 
pressing  terms  in  which  it  was  couched,  surprised  him 
very  much. 

A  few  days  before,  the  Parliament  had  rejected  the 
appeal  of  the  young  Chevalier  de  la  Barre,  sentenced  by 
the  Presidial  of  Abbeville  to  be  burnt  after  being 
decapitated,  for  singing  obscene  songs  concerning  the 
Virgin  and  the  Saints.  The  culprit 'was  not  twenty  ;  the 
most  distinguished  barristers  of  Paris  declared  that  the 
proceedings  which  had  preceded  the  sentence  were  mon- 
strous ;  and  it  was  openly  said  that  the  Parliament  had 
confirmed  the  judgment  in  order  to  give  satisfaction  to 

K  2 


the  clergy,  whom  the  edict  of  proscription  against  the 
Jesuits  had  alarmed.  No  one  thought  that  the  sen- 
tence could  be  executed,  and  it  was  generally  believed 
that  the  King  would  use  his  privilege  of  reprieve.  _ 

Nevertheless,  the  injunctions  received  by  my  grand- 
father were  so  formal,  that  he  lost  no  time  in  setting  out 
for  Abbeville.  As  soon  as  he  arrived  in  that  town,  the 
cradle  of  his  family,  he  put  himself  at  the  disposal  of 
the  criminal  lieutenant.  Fearing  that  his  profession 
might  excite  the  repugnance  of  some  of  the  persons 
who  lived  in  the  house  of  this  magistrate,  Charles  Henri 
Sanson  gave  his  name  to  the  servant,  saying  that  he 
would  wait  in  the  courtyard  for  an  answer.  He  was  not 
a  little  surprised  when  he  saw  the  magistrate  appear  in 
person,  and,  instead  of  the  polite  but  cold  greeting  he  was 
accustomed  to  receive,  welcoming  him  with  demonstra- 
tions of  great  satisfaction.  He  was  a  tall  and  lanky 
man  ;  a  low  forehead,  a  hooked  nose,  and  greenish  eyes 
concealed  under  bushy  eyebrows  gave  him  a  not  very  pre- 
possessing appearance  in  spite  of  the  jubilation  depicted 
on  his  countenance. 

My  grandfather  bowed  low  ;  but,  before  he  could 
explain  the  purpose  of  his  visit,  the  criminal  lieutenant 
told  him  that  he  knew  he  came  about  the  Chevalier  de 
la  Barre  ;  that  the  King  had  turned  a  deaf  ear  to  all 
petitions  for  the  young  man's  life  ;  that  the  execution  was 
to  take  place  on  the  following  day ;  and  with  the  most 
objectionable  familiarity  he  furnished  Charles  Henri  with 
all  the  details  of  the  trial  and  of  the  crime,  laying  stress 
on  the  justice  of  the  former  and  the  enormity  of  the 


latter,  sneering  at  the  extreme  indulgence  of  the  Par- 
liament, which  had  mitigated  some  clauses  of  the 
sentence,  and  repeating  several  times :  *  It  is  a  great 
culprit,  a  very  great  culprit,  you  have  to  punish, 
sir ;  and  you  should  be  proud  and  happy  to  have  to 
avenge  the  King  of  kings,  so  grievously  outraged  by 
this  ruffian.' 

Accustomed  as  he  was  to  the  dignity  of  Parisian 
magistrates,  Charles  Henri  Sanson  could  hardly  credit 
his  senses.  After  the  criminal  lieutenant  of  Abbeville 
had  given  him  his  instructions,  he  went  to  the  house 
which  had  been  assigned  to  him  as  an  abode,  thinking 
on  the  way  that  he  was  again  about  to  serve  as  the 
instrument  of  an  iniquity. 

The  facts  which  .had  brought  about  the  conviction  of 
the  Chevalier  de  la  Barre  were  these  :  In  1747  a  kind  of 
calvary  in  the  Italian  style  had  been  erected  on  the  new 
bridge  of  Abbeville  ;  it  was  adorned  with  an  image  of 
Jesus  Christ.  On  the  morning  of  August  7,  1765, 
it  was  remarked  that  the  cross  had  been  mutilated 
during  the  night.  One  of  the  arms  of  the  image  was 
broken,  the  crown  of  thorns  torn  off,  and  the  face  of  the 
statue  was  besmeared  with  mud. 

This  took  place  at  a  time  of  religious  effervescence  ; 
the  trial  of  Lavalette,  the  edict  of  eviction  against 
the  Jesuits,  the  attacks  of  philosophers,  and  parliamentary 
agitation  had  led  astray  the  most  sincere  Catholics  who 
thought  their  religious  independence  was  threatened. 
The  sacrilegious  offence  which  had  been  committed  in 
their  town  produced  deep  commotion  among  the  inhabit- 


ants  of  Abbeville.  An  expiatory  ceremony  conducted 
by  the  Bishop  of  Amiens  increased  this  effervescence. 
The  prelate  went  to  the  calvary  at  the  head  of  a  pro- 
cession, walked  around  it  with  a  rope  round  his  neck  and 
barefooted,  excommunicated  the  culprits,  and  called 
down  upon  them  death  and  execration. 

The  criminal  lieutenant  immediately  began  pro- 
ceedings. Over  one  hundred  witnesses  were  heard  :  none 
could  furnish  any  reliable  information  ;  but  they  were 
lavish  in  the  vague  insinuations  that  are  familiar  to 
inhabitants  of  small  towns.  The  airy  sallies  of  a  few 
young  men  assumed  the  proportions  of  premeditated 
crimes  against  religion,  and  led  to  the  inference  that  the 
mutilation  of  the  holy  statue  was  the  symptom  of  a  con- 
spiracy of  the  infidels  of  Abbeville  against  the  Catholic 

M.  Duval  de  Soicourt,  the  criminal  lieutenant 
whom  we  have  seen  greeting  my  grandfather  in  so 
strange  a  manner,  showed  extreme  passion  in  the  course 
of  this  affair  ;  and  this  led,  not  without  some  show  of 
reason,  the  people  to  believe  that  under  the  cloak  of 
religion  he  was  avenging  his  personal  animosities. 
There  resided  in  Abbeville  a  pious  and  charitable  lady 
who  was  disliked  by  M.  Duval  de  Soicourt.  Mdme. 
Feydenu  de  Brou — such  was  her  name — was  abbess  of 
Villancour,  and  had  in  her  convent  a  girl  whose  guardian 
was  the  criminal  lieutenant.  The  orphan  was  rich,  and 
her  guardian  had  always  nourished  a  hope  that  her  fortune 
might  come  into  his  family  by  the  marriage  of  the  girl 
with  his  son.     But  when  she  was  of  age  she  expressed 


the  greatest  repugnance  to  the  proposed  union ;  the 
abbess  supported  her  in  her  resistance,  and  she  obtained  a 
decision  of  the  Presidial,  by  which  M.  Duval  de  Soicourt 
was  deprived  of  his  guardianship.  Stung  to  the  quick, 
and  supposing  that  Mdme.  de  Villancour  wished  to  be- 
speak the  rich  alHance  for  the  ChevaHer  de  la  Barre,  a 
cousin  of  hers  who  lived  with  her,  the  criminal  lieutenant 
swore  that  he  would  have  his  revenge. 

A  few  days  after  the  sacrilege  he  found  an  oppor- 
tunity of  giving  vent  to  his  hatred.  The  Chevalier  de 
la  Barre  and  one  of  his  friends  named  D'Etalonde  de 
Morival,  when  sauntering  about  town,  met  a  proces- 
sion of  monks,  and  did  not  take  off  their  hats  as  it 
passed — an  irreverence  which  was  considerably  ex- 
tenuated by  the  fact  that  it  was  raining.  This  was 
enough  for  M.  Duval  de  Soicourt ;  he  connected  the  two 
affairs — the  adventure  of  the  procession  and  of  the 
sacrilege,  and  also  the  blasphemous  statements  of  which 
he  had  heard.  He  therefore  accused  five  young  men 
belonging  to  the  most  important  families  of  the  province. 
Three  of  these,  D'Etalonde  de  Morival,  Dumaniel  de 
Savense,  and  Douville  de  Maillefer,  escaped  ;  the  two 
others,  De  la  Barre  and  Moisnel,  were  arrested. 

The  trial  was  soon  concluded.  Moisnel,  who  was 
only  fourteen,  was*  acquitted  ;  but,  in  spite  of  Mdme. 
de  Villancour's  efforts,  the  Chevalier  de  la  Barre  and 
D'Etalonde  de  Morival,  the  latter  in  conttcmaciam,  were 
sentenced,  on  February  28,  1766,  to  the  cruel  punish- 
ment before  mentioned. 

I   have   also   related   how   Parliament   rejected  La 


Barre's  appeal.  He  was  taken  back  to  Abbeville,  where 
the  execution  was  to  take  place. 

Charles  Henri  Sanson  was  still  asleep,  on  the  morn- 
ing after  his  arrival,  when  a  loud  knock  was  heard 
at  the  street  door  of  the  house  ;  it  was  a  turnkey,  who 
brought  an  order  of  the  criminal  lieutenant  for 
him  to  attend  immediately  at  the  H6tel-de-Ville,  whither 
the  doomed  young  man  had  been  transferred.  On  the 
way,  the  turnkey  informed  my  grandfather  that  since 
La  Barre  had  heard  that  the  executioner  of  Paris  had 
been  summoned  to  Abbeville,  he  was  very  anxious 
to  see  him.  He  added  that  the  criminal  lieutenant, 
to  whom  the  prisoner's  desire  was  communicated,  had 
answered :  *  Tell  M.  de  la  Barre  that  he  can  have  a 
sufficient  look  at^  him  to-morrow  ; '  and  that  he  only 
yielded  after  the  wish  had  been  reiterated. 

The  Chevalier  de  la  Barre  was  in  a  room  on  the 
ground  floor  of  the  H6tel-de-Ville.  The  turnkey 
informed  him  that  the  person  he  wished  to  see  was  at 
hand;  and  as  Charles  Henri  Sanson  appeared  on  the 
threshold,  M.  de  la  Barre,  who  was  sitting  near  the 
mantelpiece,  rose  to  meet  him. 

M.  de  la'  Barre  was  barely  twenty ;  his  beardless 
face,  delicate  and  regular  features,  and  rather  feminine 
beauty  made  him  appear  still  younger  than  he  really 
was.  He  was  well  formed  and  elegant ;  and  under  any 
other  circumstances  Charles  Henri  Sanson  could  not 
but  have  been  struck  by  his  noble  and  distinguished 
bearing ;  but  he  was  too  surprised  at  the  extraordinary 
calmness   of  the   young  man  at  this  terrible  moment 


to  think  of  anything  else  :  a  slight  pallor  was  the 
only  symptom  of  emotion  to  be  seen  on  his  face,  and 
a  faint  redness  of  the  eyelids  showed  that  he  had  shed 
a  few  tears. 

He  looked  smilingly  at  the  executioner,  and  apolo- 
gised for  disturbing  him  so  early  :  *  The  prospect  of  the 
deep  sleep  which  I  am  to  enjoy  through  you,'  he 
said,  *has  made  me  selfish.  You  are  the  man  who  de- 
capitated Count  de  Lally-Tollendal,  I  think  t ' 

This  question  was  put  in  an  easy  and  simple  way 
which  disconcerted  my  grandfather;  and  he  could 
hardly  find  words  to  reply. 

*  You  made  him  suffer  outrageously,'  added  the 
Chevalier.  *  I  confess  that  this  is  the  only  feature  of 
death  that  frightens  me.  I  was  always  something  of  a 
coxcomb,  and  I  cannot  reconcile  myself  to  the  idea 
that  my  poor  head,  which  they  said  was  not  altogether 
ugly,  should  horrify  those  who  see  it.' 

Charles  Henri  answered  that  M.  de  Lally's  violent 
agitation  rather  than  the  executioner's  awkwardness 
was  the  cause  of  the  accident.  He  added  that  decapita- 
tion was  a  gentleman's  punishment,  because  it  was 
necessary  that  the  patient  should  show  fortitude  ;  and 
further,  that  the  courage  of  the  sufferer  was  as  in- 
dispensable to  its  proper  execution  as  the  dexterity 
of  the  headsman.  He  added  that  the  extraordinary 
coolness  M.  de  la  Barre  was  displaying  while  discours- 
ing on  what  was  for  others  a  subject  of  terror,  made 
him  feel  confident  that  his  head  would  suffer  no  muti- 


*  Well,'  said  La  Barre,  *  I  think  I  can  give  you 
satisfaction,  but  pray  be  careful ; '  after  which  he  dis- 
missed him.  As  Charles  Henri  Sanson  was  retiring,  an 
old  lady  and  a  monk  entered  the  room.  It  was 
Mdme.  de  Villancour,  who  came  to  bid  farewell  to  the 
one  she  loved  like  a  son,  and  who  brought  with  her  a 

My  grandfather  remained  at  the  H6tel-de-Ville.  At 
eight  o'clock  the  criminal  lieutenant  arrived,  and 
Charles  Henri  was  struck  by  the  contrast  presented 
by  the  calm  and  serene  countenance  of  the  victim, 
and  the  agitated  features  of  his  judge.  M.  Duval 
de  Soicourt's  face  was  livid,  his  lips  quivered,  his  eyes 
had  a  feverish  look  ;  he  smiled  continually,  but  his 
satisfaction  was  now  less  real  than  on  the  preceding 
day.  It  was  not  difficult  to  perceive  that  his  con- 
science was  unquiet.  He  went  to  and  fro,  hurried  the 
preparations  for  departure,  and  from  time  to  time  he 
heaved  deep  sighs  which  betrayed  the  discomfort  of  his 
mind.  ' 

At  length  the  cortege  started  (July  i,  1766).  M.  de, 
la  Barre  had  on  his  chest  a  placard  on  which  the  words 
'infidel,  blasphemer,  abominable  and  execrable  sacri- 
lege' were  written  in  large  letters.  His  confessor,  a 
monk  of  the  order  of  St.  Dominique,  was  on  his  right ; 
the  criminal  lieutenant  was  on  the  other  side.  When  the 
Chevalier  saw  him,  a  slight  contraction  was  observed  on 
his  handsome  face  ;  he  told  my  grandfather  to  stand 
on  his  left,  and,  Charles  Henri  having  obeyed,  he  said 
in  a  loud  voice,  looking  at  M.  Duval  de  Soicourt : 


*  It  is  better  so  ;  between  the  doctor  of  the  soul  and 
the  doctor  of  the  body,  what  need  I  fear  ? ' 

He  was  taken  before  the  porch  of  Saint  Wulfranc, 
where  he  was  to  make  amende  honorable ;  but  he  ener- 
getically refused  to  pronounce  the  usual  words  of  the 
formula.  *  To  confess  my  guilt,'  he  cried,  '  would  be 
to  offend  God  by  a  falsehood  ;  I  cannot  do  it' 

When  he  was  on  the  scaffold,  my  grandfather  noticed 
that  his  colour  vanished,  but  he  recovered  his  self-posses- 
sion in  a  moment.  The  monk  was  quite  overpowered. 
Charles  Henri  Sanson  told  his  assistants  to  give  him 
his  sword.  The  Chevalier  wished  to  see  it,  passed  his 
finger  along  the  edge,  and,  having  made  sure  that  it 
v/as  of  good  steel  and  sharp,  he  said  to  the  executioner  : 

'  Now,  master,  strike  with  a  firm  hand,  for  I  am  not 

My  grandfather  looked  at  the  young  man,  quite  sur- 

*  But,  Monsieur  le  Chevalier,'  he  said,  *  you  must 

*  I  cannot ;  I  am  no  criminal.  I  refused  to  make 
amende  honorable.     Strike  me  as  I  am.'  ^ 

Charles  Henri  Sanson  knew  not  what  to  do.  *  Now 
then,  be  quick,'  added  the  Chevalier,  in  a  tone  of  im- 

Then  occurred  a  fact  singular  enough  to  be  recorded 
here.     My  grandfather  handled  his  sword  with  so  much 

'  M.  Charles  Louandre,  of  the  Revue  des  Deux  Mondes^  has]  adduced 
proofs  that  the  Chevalier  de  la  Barre  was  quite  innocent  of  an  offence  which, 
in  any  case,  it  was  monstrous  to  punish  with  death. — N.  Ed. 


vigour  and  dexterity,  that  it  severed  the  spine  and  went 
through  the  neck  without  dislodging  the  head  from  the 
shoulders.  It  was  only  when  the  body  fell  that  it  rolled 
on  the  boards  of  the  scaffold,  to  the  amazement  of  the 
witnesses  of  this  extraordinary  feat. 

This  unprecedented  incident  has  been  taken  up  by 
chroniclers,  and  all  kinds  of  stories  in  prose  and  in  verse 
have  been  invented  thereon.  They  are  all  innaccurate. 
An  unscrupulous  writer  has  even  asserted  that  my 
grandfather,  proud  of  his  success,  turned  to  the  crowd 
and  said : 

*■  Was  it  not  a  fine  blow  .-* ' 

It  is  my  duty,  in  justice  to  my  grandfather  and  to  our 
sinister  corporation,  to  contradict  these  shameless  words, 
which  would  have  soiled  even  the  lips  of  a  headsman. 
The  executioner  who  exercises  his  profession  because 
he  likes  it,  and  who  admires  his  talents  of  destruction,  is 
an  absurd  fiction.  If  there  are,  in  history,  monsters 
cruel  by  instinct  and  sanguinary  by  system,  they  are 
not  to  be  found  in  our  ranks.  I  have,  of  course,  known 
many  of  my  confreres  ;  and  if  most  of  them  were  not,  to 
the  same  degree  as  myself,  victims  of  their  birth  and 
family  traditions,  I  can  nevertheless  affirm  that  none  dis- 
charged functions  so  antipathetic  to  the  natural  senti- 
ments of  men  without  a  feeling  of  shame. 




The  executions  which  have  been  described  in  the- 
preceding  chapters  have  compelled  me  to  set  aside  for  a 
while  the  part  of  these  memoirs  which  relates  to  the 
autobiography  of  my  family,  and  which,  according  to  my 
plan,  should  be  presented  simultaneously  with  the  docu- 
ments quoted  in  the  course  of  the  present  judicial  history. 
I  now  return  to  our  private  matters. 

When  I  interrupted  these  domestic  records,  Charles 
Sanson  had  just  died,  and  his  widow,  Marthe  Dubut, 
had  obtained  for  her  eldest  son,  Charles  Jean-Baptiste 
Sanson,  aged  seven  years,  the  position  of  his  father. 
Man  becomes  used  to  everything,  and  of  this  I  my- 
self have  been  a  sad  proof ;  but  it  is  from  the  time  of 
Charles  Jean-Baptiste  that  my  family  seems  to  have 
quite  reconciled  itself,  and  to  have  accepted  a  kind  of 
identification  with  the  bloody  appanage  which  it  already 
regard^ed  as  hereditary.  Jean-Baptiste  was  a  child,  and 
he  never  knew  the  gloomy  feelings  of  his  grandfather, 
nor  his  father's  melancholy.  Prepared  for  the  calling 
which  he  was  to  adopt,  he  never  aspired  to  a  higher  one. 


Marthe  Dubut  had  tenderly  loved  Charles  Sanson  ; 
in  her  reverence  for  his  memory  she  desired  that 
lier  sons  should  not  be  ashamed  of  their  father  ;  and  to 
prevent  this  she  decided  that  they  should  follow  his 
profession.  Not  satisfied  with  the  success  of  her  eldest 
son,  she  also  solicited  and  obtained  for  her  second  son 
the  office  of  executioner  of  the  Prevote-de-l'Hotel.  We 
have  seen  by  the  execution  of  Damiens  how  ill-fitted 
the  poor  fellow  was  for  such  an  office.  Not  so  with 
Charles  Jean-Baptiste  Sanson.  He  was  like  his  mother, 
and  almost  liked  his  profession.  I  said  that  his  extreme 
youth  left  a  gap  in  our  family  annals ;  there  was  an- 
other reason  for  this  lacuna :  at  a  competent  age,  to  use 
the  expression  which  describes,  in  his  letters  of  nomi- 
nation, the  time  when  he  could  discharge  his  functions, 
he  continued  his  father's  and  grandfather's  record  at 
some  intervals  and  with  an  unwilling  hand.  It  is  easy 
to  perceive  that,  being  less  impressed  than  they  were  by 
the  scenes  in  which  he  took  the  most  conspicuous  part, 
he  had  little  to  say  about  them.  A  few  notes  constitute 
the  only  tribute  he  thought  fit  to  render  to  the  old 
custom  of  his  predecessors  ;  and  these  notes  are  so  vague 
that  it  is  difficult  to  use  them. 

It  is  only  in  the  month  of  January  1755,  when 
my  grandfather  is  holding  the  pen,  that  I  find  some 
interesting  information  with  a  few  details.  He  dwells 
first  on  the  execution  of  one  Ruxton,  who  was  broken 
for  murdering  M.  Andrieu,  a  barrister ;  then  that  of 
De  Montgeot,  an  engineer  who,  after  an  imprisonment 
of  two   years,  suffered  the   same   punishment   for   the 


same  crime  committed  on  the  person  of  M.  Lescombat, 
an  architect.  This  lamentable  affair  is  well  known. 
Blinded  by  a  fatal  affection,  De  Montgeot  murdered 
Lescombat,  and  tried  to  ward  off  suspicion  by  calling 
the  patrol  to  his  help,  and  pretending  that  he  slew  his 
victim  in  self-defence.  This  statement  met  with  no 
credit,  and  De  Montgeot  was  executed.  Exasperated  by 
the  heartlessness  of  his  paramour,  Mdme.  Lescombat, 
he  denounced  her  as  his  accomplice.  The  woman 
was  confronted  with  him  at  the  foot  of  the  scaffold. 
She  was  remarkably  handsome,  and  she  tried  the  effect 
of  her  charms  on  her  judges,  but  without  avail.  She 
was  sentenced  to  die,  and  was  hanged  on  the  Place  de 

A  month  afterwards,  the  execution  of  one  Dufrancey, 
a  magistrate  of  La  Marche,  took  place.  This  man 
charged  a  merchant  named  Roy  with  inciting  a  number 
of  soldiers  of  the  guard  to  murder  him.  He  afterwards 
attempted  to  withdraw  the  indictment ;  but  it  was  too 
late,  and  he  was  called  upon  to  prove  his  allegations. 
Dufrancey  paid  false  witnesses  to  corroborate  his  charge, 
and  persuaded  them  that  the  prisoner  was  in  no  danger 
of  capital  punishment.  When  the  fourth  witness  came 
forward,  the  unfortunate  Roy,  appalled  by  the  evidence, 
exclaimed  :  '  What  have  I  done  to  you,  that  you  should 
bring  me  to  the  scaffold  t  I  do  not  even  know  you,  and 
I  never  saw  you  before  ! ' 

The  witness,  who  was  a  painter,  answered  :  *  What !  to 
the  scaffold  ?  I  was  not  aware  that  the  consequences 
were  so  serious.'     These  words  excited  suspicion.     The 


man  was  sharply  cross-examined,  and  the  whole  truth 
came  out.  The  three  other  false  witnesses  were  imme- 
diately arrested ;  their  trial  was  soon  concluded,  and. 
after  being  tortured,  they  were  broken  on  the  wheel 
with  the  man  who  had  corrupted  them. 

These  are  the  only  facts  I  can  find  in  Jean-Baptiste 
Sanson's  notes.  In  the  month  of  January  1754  he  had 
had  an  attack  of  paralysis  from  which  he  never  com- 
pletely recovered.  We  have  seen  him  finding  again 
some  strength  at  the  execution  of  Count  de  Lally  ;  but 
he  relapsed  into  his  former  state  of  weakness,  and 
bestowed  little  attention  on  anything,  much  less  on 
circumstances  relating  to  his  profession. 

By  his  marriage  with  Madeleine  Tronson  he  had  ten 
children  ;  three  daughters  and  seven  sons.  All  the  boys_ 
selected  their  father's  profession.  ^One  became  execu- 
tioner at  Rheims,  another  at  Orleans,  another  at 
Meaux,  a  fourth  at  Etampes,  a  fifth  at  Soissons,  and  a 
sixth  at  Montpellier  ;  and  the  seventh  succeeded  to  his 
father.  When,  on  certain  occasions,  all  Jean-Baptiste's 
children  met  at  the  same  table,  the  family  gathering 
wore  a  patriarchal  appearance.  The  grandmother, 
Marthe  Dubut,  who  reached  a  very  old  age,  was  seated 
at  one  end  of  the  table  ;  and  facing  her  was  her  son, 
whose  paralysis  gave  him  an  appearance  not  devoid  of 
majesty.  It  was  in  these  gatherings  that  the  servants, 
forgetting  the  Christian  names  of  the  sons  of  Jean- 
Baptiste,  began  to  designate  them  by  the  names  of  their 
jurisdictions,  and  said  in  turn.  Monsieur  de  Rheims, 
Monsieur  de  Soissons,  Monsieur  d' Orleans,  &c.,  a  habit 


which  was  preserved  in  our  profession,  although  it  had 
no  other  origin. 

The  eldest,  Charles  Henri  Sanson,  who  was  called 
Monsieur  de  Paris,  was  undoubtedly  morally  and  phy- 
sically superior  to  his  brothers.  Handsome  and  well- 
formed,  he  possessed  a  superior  intellect  moulded  by  an 
excellent  education.  He  was  extremely  elegant,  and 
had  drawn  upon  himself  so  much  attention  by  the  rich- 
ness of  his  dress  that  a  somewhat  arbitrary  measure 
was  taken,  which  forbade  him  to  wear  blue  because  it 
was  the  colour  of  noblemen.  Charles  Henri  might 
have  shown  the  papers  of  the  Longval  family  and  raised 
the  question  whether  the  office  of  executioner  was 
a  disgrace.  His  manner  of  protesting  consisted  in 
wearing  still  more  gorgeous  costumes  of  green  cloth. 
He  gave  fashion  to  this  colour,  and  all  the  beaux  of  the 
Court,  the  brilliant  Marquis  de  Letorieres  at  their  head, 
adopted  the  cut  and  colour  of  his  garments  and  wore 
coats  a  la  Sanson. 

From  my  grandfather's  time  commences  the  most 
curious  and  now  uninterrupted  sequence  of  these  memoirs. 
But,  before  giving  the  notes  he  left  concerning  the 
Revolution,  I  cannot  do  better,  to  introduce  him, 
than  quote  an  adventure  of  his  youth.  Of  this  he  left 
an  autograph  account,  which  I  textually  give  : 

*  After  a  long  day's  shooting,  I  was  entering  an  inn 
at  dinner  time,  when  I  found  myself  in  the  company  of 

Mdme.  le  Marquise  de  X ,  who  was  returning  from 

her  country-house  to  Paris.  This  lady  bowed,  offered 
me  a  seat,  and,  after  half  an  hour's  conversation,  she  at 
VOL.  I.  L 


length  asked  me  what  my  profession  was.  Of  course  I 
replied  that  I  was  an  officer  of  Parliament.  She  imme- 
diately requested  that  our  dinners  should  be  served 
together,  and  we  made  such  a  gay  and  pleasant  repast 
that  on  both  sides  it  seemed  as  if  the  heart  had  some- 
thing to  do  with  our  conversation. 

'  After  dessert,  I  ordered  my  horses  and  postchaise, 
and  retired,  after  profusely  thanking  the  lady  for  her 
gracious  greeting ;  but  hardly  had  I  left  the  room  when 
a  gentleman  who  was  acquainted  with  the  Marquise 
came  up  and  asked  her  : 

* "  Madame,  do  you  know  the  young  man  who  has 
just  dined  with  you  }  " 

* "  No,"  she  answered ;  "  he  told  me  he  was  an  officer 
of  Parliament." 

* "  He  is  the  executioner  of  Paris  ;  I  know  him  quite 
well.  He  has  just  executed  a  man  ;  or  rather  superin- 
tended an  execution,  for  he  seldom  does  the  work  him- 

*  At  these  words  the  Marquise  nearly  fainted.  She 
remained  speechless  with  confusion,  shed  tears,  and, 
remembering  that  I  had  touched  her  hand,  she  asked 
for  a  basin  and  water  and  washed  her  hands.  She 
stepped  into  her  carriage  full  of  anger,  and  during  her 
journey  she  thought  of  the  means  of  avenging  herself 
Shortly  after  her  arrival  in  Paris  she  presented  a 
petition  to  Parliament  in  which,  after  relating  what 
had  taken  place,  she  asked  that  I  should  be  sentenced 
to  beg  her  pardon,  with  a  rope  round  my  neck,  for  the 
insult  of  which  she  said  I  had  been  guilty  ;  and  that, 


for  the  safety  of  the  public,  I  should  henceforth  wear  a 
distinctive  sign  so  that  all  should  know  me. 

*The  Court  summoned  the  parties  concerned  to 
appear  before  it.  I  sought  a  barrister  everywhere  to 
take  my  case  in  hand  ;  but  either  owing  to  the  influence 
of  Mdme.  la  Marquise,  which  was  great,  or  because  of 
a  reluctance  to  appear  as  the  advocate  of  the  execu- 
tioner, no  one  would  undertake  to  act  as  my  counsel, 
and  I  was  obliged  to  conduct  my  own  case. 

*The  advocate  of  the  plaintiff  forgot  nothing,  and 
laid  stress  on  the  flagrant  insult  Mdme.  la  Marquise  had 
to  complain  of  He  described  with  much  eloquence  the 
sad  situation  of  the  poor  lady,  after  she  had  been  in- 
formed of  the  profession  of  the  man  with  whom  she  had 
dined.  He  said  that  my  infamous  calling  did  not  allow 
me  to  eaf-everTln  the  company  of  a  mere  bourgeois  ; 
far  less  could  I  do  so  with  a  person  of  Madame's  rank; 
and  he  concluded  by  asking  that  his  client's  demands 
should  be  granted. 

*  I  answered  in  the  following  terms  : 
' "  It  is  fortunate  for  me,  gentlemen,  that,  being 
charged  before  you  as  a  criminal,  nothing  is  alleged 
against  my  honesty.  Thank  Heaven,  my  conscience 
is  burthened  by  no  misdeed  human  justice  has  a 
right  to  deal  with  ;  my  only  crime  is  that  I  discharge 
functions  that  are  held  to  be  infamous  and  disgraceful. 
Now,  I  ask  you,  gentlemen,  whether  there  are  infamous 
and  disgraceful  functions  in  the  State  } 

* "  Infamy  is  the  appanage  of  crime,  and  where  there 
I  is  no  crime  there  cannot  be  infamy.  The  discharge  of 
s  L  2  • 


my  functions  is  not  criminal ;  on  the  contrary,  it  is  an  act 
of  justice  ;  and  the  same  principle  of  equity  which  leads 
you  to  pass  a  sentence  actuates  me  when  I  have  to  inflict 
the  penalty  upon  the  culprit.  The  plaintiff  did  not 
reflect  when  she  summoned  me  before  you.  If  I  had 
claimed  your  equity,  she  might  have  complained  and 
suspected  you.  The  fact  is  that  our  functions  are  con- 
nected together  to  such  a  degree  that  mine  cannot  be 
stigmatised  without  mortal  imputation  on  yours.  I 
merely  act  in  obedience  to  your  orders,  and  if  there  was 
aught  reprehensible  in  my  avocations  it  would  redound 
to  your  discredit,  since,  by  the  essence  of  the  laws,  the 
one  who  orders  a  crime  is  more  guilty  than  the  person 
who  commits  it. 

* "  I  am  quite  aware  that  all  public  offices  are  not 
equally  honourable ;  they  are  creditable  only  because 
they  are  useful  to  society ;  but  according  to  the  latter 
principle  mine  stands  in  the  first  rank.  What  would 
the  State  do  if  it  were  suppressed  for  one  single  day  ? 
The  whole  kingdom  would  be  a  vast  field  of  brigandage ; 
impunity  giving  encouragement  to  all  passions,  the  most 
sacred  laws  would  be  trodden  under  foot,  virtue  would 
be  despised  and  vice  would  prevail.  There  would  be  no 
other  law  than  the  law  of  the  strongest ;  murder, 
rapine,  and  theft  would  be  fearlessly  committed  under  the 
very  eyes  of  Justice.  It  would  be  useless  to  punish  and 
condemn  ;  pecuniary  penalties  do  not  frighten  penniless 
brigands ;  sentences  entailing  physical  penalties  would 
be  laughed  at  if  there  was  no  one  to  carry  them  out ; 
for  I  venture  to  say  it,  gentlemen,  fearless  of  forgetting 


the  respect  due  to  you,  they  do  not  fear  your  sen- 
tences, nor  the  pen  of  the  clerk  of  the  Court ;  it  is  my 
sword  which  makes  them  tremble  ;  it  is  in  the  shadow 
of  that  sword  that  innocence  breathes  freely,  that  the 
police  are  powerful,  and  that  public  order  prevails. 

^  *'  The  God  of  armies  has  placed  the  sword  in  the 
hands  of  the  King  to  punish  crime  and  protect  inno- 
cence. Being  unwilling  to  wield  it  himself,  he  has  done 
me  the  honour  to  entrust  it  to  my  hands.  I  am  the 
guardian  of  this  treasure,  which  is  the  finest  appanage  of 
his  royalty  and  the  distinctive  emblem  of  his  sovereignty. 
It  is  not  to  you,  properly  speaking,  that  he  has  given  it 
in  trust ;  the  culprit  deserves  punishment  because  of 
his  crime,  not  of  your  sentence  ;  or,  to  speak  more  ac- 
curately, it  is  the  law  which  inflicts  punishment ;  you 
merely  declare  that  he  is  convicted  of  a  crime,  and 
consequently,  in  the  case  of  capital  punishment,  I,  as 
public  minister,  use  the  weapon  wherewith  I  have  been 
entrusted.  I  punish  crime  and  avenge  outraged  virtue ; 
this  gives  to  my  employment  a  pre-eminence  and  a 
degree  of  elevation  which  brings  it  in  closer  connection 
with  the  throne. 

' "  I  know  that  my  ofiftce  is  considered  dishonourable 
because  I  slay  men  ;  hence  the  feeling  of  horror  with 
which  I  am  regarded.  This  is  the  result  of  mere  pre- 
judice, which  must  soon  be  dispelled  if  the  facts  are 
examined  without  prejudice.  There  is  no  disgrace  in 
shedding  blood  when  the  weal  of  the  State  demands  it ; 
it  is  even  an  honourable  function.  Witness  the  pro- 
fession of  arms  which  is  highly  esteemed,  although  it 


has  for  its  object  to  shed  the  blood  of  the  enemy.  Ask 
a  soldier  what  his  profession  is  ;  he  will  tell  you  that, 
like  me,  he  is  a  slayer  of  men.  Yet  his  company  is 
never  shunned,  and  no  one  thinks  he  is  disgraced  by 
eating  in  his  company.  For  what  reason  do  people 
despise  in  my  profession  functions  which  are  deemed 
creditable  in  men  of  war }  If  there  be  any  difference 
between  us,  surely  it  is  to  my  advantage  ;  for  who  does 
a  soldier  slay  .''  Innocents,  very  honourable  men  whose 
only  crime  is  that  they  do  their  duty !  It  makes  the 
tears  of  widows  and  orphans  flow ;  whereas,  in  the 
accompHshment  of  my  avocations,  I  respect  innocence,  I 
only  kill  culprits  ;  and  a  man  who  has  done  his  duty 
has  no  reason  to  fear  me.  I  merely  purge  society  of 
the  monsters  who  disturb  its  repose. 

' '  "  By  this  parallel  I  do  not  pretend  to  diminish  the 
esteem  that  is  due  to  the  noble  profession  of  arms. 
Soldiers  watch  our  frontier,  foil  the  attempts  of  our 
enemies,  and  ensure  for  us  the  priceless  boon  of  peace  ; 
it  is  only  just  to  honour  a  calling  which  is  so  useful  to 
society ;  but  I  do  not  fear  to  say,  gentlemen,  that,  how- 
ever useful  the  profession  of  arms  may  seem  to  you, 
mine  is  still  more  indispensable.  Soldiers  only  repress 
external  raids.  They  have  to  fight  but  rarely ;  lapses  of 
twenty  years  have  passed  without  the  army  being  called 
to  action  ;  whereas  I  preserve  peace  at  home ;  I  con- 
tinually restrain  the  insolence  of  the  bad  citizens  who 
disturb  the  public  peace  ;  and  scarcely  a  week  elapses 
without  there  being  occasion  for  me  to  punish  crime  and 
avenge  the  rights  of  innocence.     Thus  I  am  more  useful 


to  the  public,  and  my  help  is  particularly  efficacious  ;  for 
each  solitary  soldier,  each  officer,  contributes  but  in  a 
small  degree  to  the  happiness  of  the  State  ;  the  glory  of 
preserving  public  tranquillity  is  divided  among  so  many 
thousand  men,  that  each  individual  has  only  a  small 
share  of  the  privilege.  On  the  other  hand,  in  my  pro- 
fession lies  the  advantage  of  alone  ensuring  public  tran- 
quillity, and  I  can  say  without  exaggeration  that  I  alone 
in  my  vast  department  secure  quiet  more  effectually 
than  a  hundred  thousand  men  can  do  on  behalf  of  the 

' "  Do  not  believe,  gentlemen,  that,  in  defending  the 
unjustly  attacked  prerogatives  of  my  office,  I  claim  any 
personal  merit ;  I  know  that  a  function,  however 
brilliant,  is  always  distinct  from  the  individual  who  holds 
it.  The  real  glory  of  man  lies  in  virtue  and  the  proper 
accomplishment  of  his  duties,  and  I  never  sought  any 
other.  I  should  not  assuredly  have  attempted  to  vindi- 
cate the  duties  of  my  office  if  the  injustice  of  my 
enemies  had  not  obliged  me  to  do  so.  As  I  lay  no 
claim  to  the  glory  of  my  functions,  it  would  be  unjust  to 
cast  upon  me  the  opprobrium  which  the  thoughtless 
have  seen  fit  to  attach  to  them,  and  to  call  me  in- 
famous because  it  is  alleged  that  my  office  deserves  the 

* "  The  advocate  of  the  plaintiff,  not  finding  in  the 
exercise  of  my  office  sufficient  grounds  to  describe  It 
as  contemptible,  has  alluded  to  the  unworthiness  of 
those  who  hold  it.  Men  deserving  death,  said  he, 
and  sentenced  to  capital  punishment,  have  saved  their 


lives  by  undertaking  the  hateful  task  which  no  one  else 
would  accomplish.  This,  it  must  be  admitted,  has  occa- 
sionally happened,  and  the  deplorable  blindness  of  men 
should  be  regretted  in  such  circumstances.  Several 
honest  men  who  could  have  served  society  with  profit  in 
the  functions  of  this  important  office,  blinded  by  preju- 
dice, gave  them  up  and  were  compelled  to  remit  them 
to  less  worthy  hands  ;  but  what  does  this  prove  }  Just 
as  a  lofty  office  confers  no  degree  of  merit  on  a  sot  who 
happens  to  hold  it,  in  the  same  way  the  demerit  of 
the  holder  cannot  in  any  manner  affisct  the  office  and 
dishonour  it.  If  I  had  gained  mine  by  the  means  he 
describes,  his  argument  against  me  would  be,  I  admit, 
conclusive ;  but  such  is  not  the  case.  I  have  the  honour 
to  be  the  fourth  of  my  family  to  whom  it  has  descended 
from  father  to  son,  and  if  hereditary  nobility  were  at- 
tached to  it,  as  it  ought  to  be,  I  might  stand  on  even 
ground  with  Mdme.  la  Marquise. 

'  "  You  laugh,  gentlemen,  at  the  word  '  hereditary.' 
I  cannot  find  anything  extraordinary  or  preposterous 
in  it.  Military  offices,  which  have  the  same  functions 
as  mine,  and  which,  as  I  have  observed,  are  inferior 
to  it,  enjoy  the  same  advantage.  Yours,  gentlemen — 
allow  me  to  say  so,  yours — which  only  contribute  to 
the  public  weal  in  an  indirect  way,  while  mine  has  a 
more  direct  application,  have  the  same  privilege.  Why 
is  the  concession  denied  to  my  office  1  It  will  not  be 
denied,  I  suppose,  that  I  am  a  member  of  Parliament, 
and  perhaps,  I  may  say,  one  of  its  most  useful  members. 
None  among  you  gentlemen,  can,  individually,  ensure 


public  happiness  effectually;  none  can  pronounce  a 
sentence  except  in  conjunction  with  all  the  other  mem- 
bers of  the  body.  Thus  you  never  act  otherwise  than 
as  members ;  whereas  I  procure  peace  alone,  and  I  act 
as  a  chief.  Now  every  chief  is  respectable,  and  to 
whatever  category  he  may  belong  he  should  enjoy  the 
privilege  of  nobility.  The  general  prosecutor,  who  is 
the  chief  of  his  department,  has  it ;  so  does  the  chief 
clerk  of  the  Court.  Why  should  I  be  deprived  of  it  by 
an  unrighteous  exception  }  I  will  press  no  further  the 
sovereign  reasons  suggested  by  the  justice  of  my  case  ; 
I  merely  point  them  out,  as  you  may  see.  Men  of  my 
profession  can  act  better  than  they  can  speak,  handle 
the  sword  better  than  make  a  speech  ;  I  believe,  never- 
theless, that  I  have  said  enough  to  urge  confidently 
that  Mdme.  la  Marquise  should  be  nonsuited.  I  might 
urge  a  plea  against  her,  but  I  consider  the  weakness  of 
her  case  as  a  sufficient  rebuke.  I  therefore  ask,  not  that 
the  alleged  infamy  of  my  office  be  removed,  for  no 
infamy  is  attached  to  it,  but  that  it  be  declared  that  not 
only  am  I  a  member  of  the  Sovereign  Court,  but  that  I 
am  the  head  of  my  department ;  that  my  office  has  par- 
ticular resemblance  to  the  profession  of  arms ;  that,  in 
consequence,  I  have  a  right  to  the  prerogative  of  gown 
and  sword ;  and  I  further  ask  that,  in  virtue  of  this  two- 
fold title,  nobility  be  conferred  upon  me,  as  well  as  upon 
my  posterity ;  and  I  am  confident  that  you  cannot  but 
grant  my  petition." 

'The  advocate  for  the  plaintiff  perceived  that  my 
speech  had  impressed  the  judges,  and  he  hastened  to 


reply.  "  I  do  not  know,  gentlemen,"  he  said,  "  whether 
the  speech  you  have  just  heard  is  worthy  of  your  con- 
tempt, or  whether  it  should  not  excite  your  indignation. 

* "  What !  a  wretched  executioner  presume  to  com- 
pare himself  to  you,  and  even  dare  to  claim  pre- 
eminence !  He  claims  the  lead  of  the  officers  of 
Parliament.  What !  although  soldiers  expose  their 
lives  for  the  safety  of  the  State,  their  glory  does  not 
equal  his  ;  and  he  asks  for  nobility !  In  fact,  he  is  the 
first  functionary  of  the  State  !  I  will  not  stoop  to  discuss 
his  arguments.  It  is  sufficient  to  observe  that  the  con- 
tempt and  hatred  that  are  felt  for  his  office  are  as  old  as 
the  world  ;  they  are  common  to  all  nations  and  all 
times.  It  is  an  innate  sentiment,  a  cry  of  the  heart, 
which  discards  this  minister  of  death  ;  one  can  never  see 
him  without  feeling  secret  horror,  and  our  eyes  cannot 
but  seek  on  his  clothes  marks  of  his  cruelty  ;  it  always 
seems  to  us  that  he  is  reeking  with  human  blood.  Let 
him  say  what  he  likes  ;  no  argument  can  stand  against 
the  sentiment  he  inspires  ;  as  long  as  his  profession  is 
to  shed  blood  and  destroy  men,  nature  must  recoil 
before  him. 

* "  Think  of  it,  gentlemen ;  believe  the  impulse  of 
nature,  and  I  am  sure  Mdme.  la  Marquise  shall  win 
the  day." 

*  I  looked  at  him  with  pride  and  contempt,  and 
answered : 

'  "  I  did  not  think  that  it  required  so  little  to  be  an 
advocate.  Since  it  is  thus,  and  if  I  am  contradicted 
again,  I  can  become  a  lawyer  in  three  days.     What! 


you  rejoice  in  the  title  and  you  argue  so  lamely  ?  I  beg 
you  to  observe,  gentlemen,  that  feeling  how  impossible 
it  is  for  him  to  answer  my  arguments,  he  merely  attacks 
my  conclusions  and  tries  to  turn  them  into  ridicule  ;  he 
allows  the  premises,  to  use  a  legal  expression,  and  denies 
the  consequence.  A  curious  answer,  indeed !  He 
should  have  attacked  my  principles  and  denied  the  con- 
sequences. He  does  neither  the  one  nor  the  other  ;  he 
knows  that  what  I  have  said  is  so  true  that  he  cannot 
even  doubt  it.  He  is  angry  with  me  because  I  said 
that  my  calling  is  equal  to  the  military  profession,  and 
that  it  is  closely  linked  with  your  office.  I  am  sorry  for 
him,  but  this  truth  is  so  clearly  proved  that  I  defy  him,  or 
anyone  else,  to  refute  it.  He  feels  that  common  sense 
is  against  him.  He  appeals  to  sentiment  ;  a  paltry 
trick,  indeed  !  He  says  that  he  feels  a  loathing  for  my 
office  ;  I  suppose  he  does  experience  such  a  sentiment 
since  he  says  so.  But,  as  for  me,  I  assure  you  that  I 
feel  quite  differently.  He  boldly  asserts  that  all  men 
feel  like  him.  How  can  he  say  .'*  Innate  sentiment  is 
only  known  to  those  who  feel  it.  And  even  if  he  were 
right,  what  of  that }  It  would  be  a  traditional  pre- 
judice, a  result  of  education.  This  horror  is  just  what  I 
complain  of.  The  question  is  whether  this  horror  is 
equitable,  and  this  my  opponent  refuses  to  argue.  The 
only  reason  on  which  he  bases  the  alleged  infamy  of  my 
profession  is  that  its  object  is  the  death  of  men.  I  have 
already  observed  that  it  is  not  disgraceful  to  shed  blood 
for  the  welfare  of  the  State.  I  will  only  add  a  few 
comments  which  will  demonstrate  my  right,  and  show 


the  bad  faith  and  ignorance  of  the  advocate  of  Mdme. 
la  Marquise,  who  asserts  that  at  all  times  my  office  has 
been  loathed  by  the  public.  Is  he  not  aware,  then,  that 
among  the  ancients  it  was  the  custom  to  entrust  the 
functions  I  discharge  to  the  most  meritorious  in  the 
State  ?  Solomon,  the  wisest  of  all  kings,  knew  what 
glory  was,  and  when  he  wished  to  bestow  on  some  one 
a  token  of  his  friendship,  he  gave  him  an  office  similar 
to  mine.  Benaiah,  the  captain  of  his  guards  and  his 
favourite,  was  invested  with  this  dignity. 

'  "  It  is  true  that  there  was  no  Parliament  at  the  time. 
There  was  only  the  sovereign  and  his  executioner  for 
the  maintenance  of  order.  These  two  dignitaries  were 
correlative,  and  one  could  not  subsist  without  the  other. 
Solomon  alone  pronounced  judgment,  and  Benaiah  alone 
could  carry  it  out.  Joab  had  prevaricated  ;  the  king 
sentenced  him  to  death,  and  Benaiah  killed  him :  '  Inter- 
Jice  eum  et  sepeli^'  said  the  king  to  him.  Shimei  suffered  a 
like  fate.  David  acted  in  a  similar  manner.  A  young 
page  for  whom  he  felt  affection  was  entrusted  by  him 
with  the  execution  of  the  criminal  Amalekite,  who  had 
borne  a  sacrilegious  hand  on  the  person  of  Saul,  king  of 
Israel.  My  opponent  knows  nothing  of  history,  or  is 
merely  trying  to  deceive  the  Court.  Confess,  gentle- 
men, that  if  the  King  had  attached  a  salary  of  one 
hundred  and  fifty  thousand  livres  to  my  office,  together 
with  suitable  privileges,  it  would  be  the  finest  office  in 
the  State.  If  you  still  doubt  this,  let  us  attack  my  ad- 
versary's principles.  So  long  as  my  profession  consists 
m  shedding  blood  and  slaying  men,  my  profession  must 


remain  infamous,  and  nature  must  recoil  from  me. 
Such  is  his  argument.  If  it  is  just,  all  those  who  make 
a  profession  of  shedding  blood  should  share  my  fate. 
The  principle  is  common  to  all,  and  the  consequence 
applies  to  all  in  the  same  way.  Thereby  he  stigmatises 
all  soldiers ;  he  wounds  the  natural  sentiments  and 
tastes  of  all  nations  which  always  regarded  them  with 
favour.  According  to  him,  a  brave  officer  who  retires 
from  battle  covered  with  dust  and  blood  should  be 
regarded  as  an  unnatural  monster,  deserving  of  horror 
and  contempt.  Who  does  not  feel  the  absurdity  of 
such  reasoning  ^  He  is  bound  to  admit  it  or  to  discard 
his  principle;  to  excuse  a  soldier  because  he  attacks 
armed  men  and  risks  his  life  is  a  frivolous  exception  ; 
his  profession  is,  all  the  same,  bloodshed  and  killing. 
Thus  the  principle  can  apply  to  him  as  well  as  to  me. 
Six  armed  soldiers  co-operate  against  a  poor  deserter, 
who  is  pinioned  and  unable  to  defend  himself;  they 
blow  his  brains  out,  and  they  certainly  do  not  risk  their 
lives  in  so  doing  ;  and  yet  no  one  will  venture  to  think 
them  sullied.  But  what  is  the  use  of  so  many  subter- 
fuges. It  is  certain  that  it  is  neither  humiliating  nor  low 
to  shed  blood  when  the  safety  of  the  State  demands  it. 
It  is  even  an  honourable  function.  My  office  is  the  only 
one  which  it  is  intended  to  except.  And  if  I  ask  by 
what  right,  no  other  answer  can  be  given  except  that 
this  state  of  things  springs  from  fancy  and  prejudice. 
Who,  among  sensible  men,  would  be  guided  by  ideas 
that  are  in  contradiction  to  sound  reason,  which  give 
the  name  of  virtue  to  vice,  and  of  vice  to  virtue  } 


*  "  A  man  kills  his  enemy  in  a  duel ;  that  is,  he  trans- 
gresses all  divine  and  human  laws.  He  deserves  the 
worst  punishment ;  he  should  become  in  the  eyes  of  the 
world  an  object  of  horror ;  no  one  should  eat  with  him, 
or  even  speak  to  him  ?  Not  at  all  :  fancy  decrees  that 
he  should  be  regarded  as  a  man  of  honour,  and  his 
•crime  as  an  act  of  valour.  How  unfortunate  is  the  age 
we  live  in  !  Fancy  is  supreme ;  virtue  is  oppressed, 
and  vice  condoned  !  What !  an  infamous  duellist  who 
has  just  killed  a  human  creature  to  satisfy  his  brutality 
is  to  be  considered  an  honest  man,  while  a  deserving 
individual,  who  serves  society  in  the  most  important 
function  of  the  State,  is  to  be  regarded  as  a  ruffian  who 
cannot  sit  down  at  table  with  any  other  person  !  It  is  a 
•disgrace  to  our  century.  It  is  your  duty,  gentlemen,  to 
discard  this  perverse  taste.  You  cannot  do  better  than 
:grant  the  prayer  I  address  to  you,  I  ask  no  favour  ;  but 
I  expect  everything  of  your  equity."  ' 

The  Court  retired  to  confer,  and  decided  that  the 
case  should  be  indefinitely  adjourned.  More  than  a 
century  after  this  judgment  was  pronounced,  I  publish 
my  grandfather's  curious  brief,  in  which  he  attempted  a 
rehabilitation,  nay,  a  glorification  which  never  occurred 
to  me.  I  abstain  from  any  remark.  What  are  the  argu- 
ments of  logic  against  that  innate  feeling  which,  as  the 
advocate  of  the  Marchioness  very  well  said,  must  always 
predominate  }  Innate  feeling  honours  the  soldier,  ab- 
solves the  duellist,  and  brands  the  executioner ;  but 
liow  can  it  condemn  him  without  also  discarding  capital 
punishment  .'* 


I  now  return  to  my  family  and  Charles  Henri  San- 
son. I  have  yet  to  relate  his  first  love,  which  is  interest- 
ing for  more  than  one  reason,  inasmuch  as  the  object 
of  his  affection  was  Marie  Jeanne  Gomart  Vaubernier, 
who  was  to  be  the  Comtesse  du  Barrv. 



FA  MIL  Y  ANE  CD  0  TES. 

I  HAVE  given  a  faithful  description  of  Marthe  Dubut, 
widow  of  Charles  Sanson  IL,  who  enjoyed  a  long  life 
and  saw  her  descendants  multiply  in  the  profession  she 
contributed  to  maintain  in  the  family.  I  have  not, 
however,  sufficiently  dwelt  on  the  career  of  Charles 
Jean-Baptiste  Sanson,  her  son,  who  was  the  father  of  the 
numerous  lineage  which  we  have  seen  spreading  over 
France  in  the  capacity  of  executioners.  However,  I  must 
neglect  M.  de  Rheims,  M.  de  Provins,  and  the  others  in 
favour  of  Monsieur  de  Paris,  the  head  of  the  family,  and 
the  most  important  functionary  of  his  order.  The  house 
of  the  executioner  of  Paris  always  held  the  first  rank ; 
it  was  a  kind  of  metropolis,  of  which  the  provincial 
executioners  considered  themselves  suffragans.  We 
were  often  sent  out  into  the  provinces  to  superintend  ^ 
executions ;  advice  was  regularly  asked  of  us  by  our  |P 
subordinates,  and  a  constant  correspondence  was  carried 
on  between  Paris  and  the  other  chief  towns  of  the  country. 
I  may  add  that  some  of  our  confreres  of  the  departments 
sent  us  their  sons  as  assistants  for  a  certain  time,  that 
they  might  acquire  ability  in  the  profession.     We  seldom 


refused  to  receive  such  pupils,  and  we  admitted  the 
novices,  who  sat  at  our  table  as  long  as  they  remained 
with  us. 

When  the  number  of  Charles  J ean-Baptiste's  children 
is  remembered,  one  may  have  an  idea  of  the  numerous 
company  which  assembled  in  the  dining  room  of  our 
house.  Charles  Jean-Baptiste  shared  his  mother's  singular 
ideas  and  strange  principles  ;  both  were  much  respected 
by  their  children  and  the  strangers  who  found  hos- 
pitality under  their  roof.  The  life  of  Charles  Jean- 
Baptiste  was  very  active  and  left  him  but  little  time  for 
amusement.  He  studied  anatomy  with  fervency,  as 
Sanson  de  Longval  had  done.  He  possessed  the  science 
to  a  greater  degree  than  any  of  my  ancestors.  He 
always  rose  early  ;  after  a  light  meal,  he  went  to  church 
at  Saint  Laurent  and  returned  to  his  house,  where  he 
received  a  certain  number  of  patients  whom  he  treated 
according  to  their  ailings.  These  consultations  lasted 
until  dinner  time.  After  dinner  the  family  took  a  stroll 
in  the  garden,  and  then  my  great-grandfather  returned 
to  his  laboratory,  where  he  prepared  his  medicines  or 
pursued  his  studies.  At  dusk,  until  supper  was  served, 
he  sat  down  before  his  door,  and  breathed  the  fresh 
air.  He  occasionally  encountered  the  hostile  look  of 
_some  neighbour  ;  but  he  found  ample  compensation  for 
such  signs  of  contempt  in  the  bows  of  a  throng  of 
paupers  and  patients  who  always  found  assistance  and 
advice  under  his  roof. 

It  is  difficult  to  explain  the  psychological  phenomena 
by  which  many  of  us  have  been  enabled  to  unite  with 

VOL.  I.  M 


a  profession  for  which  I  have  always  felt  repugnance 
the  practice  of  the  highest  virtue.  I  could  quote  many- 
instances  ;  that,  among  others,  of  the  executioner 
Gasnier,  of  Rennes,  who,  in  his  jurisdiction,  was  the 
providence  of  the  poor,  and  who  had  earned  so  much 
consideration  that  the  members  of  the  local  Parliament 
often  came  to  see  him,  walked  with  him  in  his  garden, 
and  even  asked  for  his  advice.  I  can  mention  in  favour 
of  my  family,  if  not  tokens  of  esteem  and  sympathy  as 
flattering,  a  course  of  conduct  which  deserved  such  gratify- 
ing marks.  Connection  between  the  magistracy  of  Paris 
and  the  executioner  was  less  direct  than  in  the  pro- 
vinces, and  since  the  Revolution  this  connection  has 
steadily  decreased.  It  was-  never  given  to  members 
of  the  Parliament  and  of  the  Court  of  Paris  to  know 
the  moral  worth  of  the  family  in  which  was  transmitted 
from  father  to  son  an  office  to  which  even  French 
legislation  persists  in  ascribing  the  lowest  rank.  But 
the  recollections  my  ancestors  have  left  in  the  localities 
in  which  they  dwelt  are  highly  flattering  to  them. 
Despite  of  the  reprobation  which  was  attached  to  their 
functions,  they  were  escorted  to  the  grave  by  a  numerous 
cortege  of  paupers,  and  I  remember  that  a  similar 
event  happened  when  I  took  my  poor  father  to  his  last 

These  reflections  can  especially  be  applied  to  Charles 
Jean-Baptiste  Sanson,  who  was  essentially  a  good  and 
charitable  man.  Before  the  cruel  illness  which  afflicted 
his  old  age,  and  led  him  to  seek  refuge  in  the  small 
farm  of  Brie-Comte-Robert,   which,   since   Sanson   de 


Longval's  time,  had  ever  been  the  country  residence  of 
Messieurs  de  Paris,  he  led  the  regular  existence  of  which 
I  have  given  the  exact  description.  It  was  on  one  of 
the  evenings  which  he  spent  before  his  door  in  the 
manner  I  have  described  that  he  received  a  singular 
visit.  A  legend  had  been  circulated  concerning  the 
executioner's  house  to  the  effect  that,  having  found  his 
own  son  guilty  of  one  of  the  crimes  which  are  punished  by 
law,  the  headsman  had  tried  him  and  carried  out  his  own 
sentence  by  slaying  his  son.  The  rigidity  and  austere 
principles  of  Charles  Jean-Baptiste  Sanson  were  as  well 
known  as  his  kindliness,  and  the  high  opinion  enter- 
tained of  him  may  have  given  rise  to  this  fable  concerning 
a  Brutus  of  the  scaffold.  The  story  was  told  everywhere 
and  reached  Versailles ;  and  Louis  XV.  was  nearly 
Induced  to  enquire  of  my  great-grandfather  whether  it 
was  true.  However  he  forgot  the  whole  matter ;  but 
certain  lords  and  courtiers,  allured  by  the  prospect 
of  a  mysterious  drama,  determined  to  ascertain  the 

Charles  Jean-Baptiste  Sanson  was  reclining  on  one 
of  the  stone  seats  which  stood  on  either  side  of  his 
gate,  when  a  rich  carriage  drove  up,  and  a  man  with 
•strongly-marked  features  stepped  out  and  advanced. 
Without  even  raising  his  three-cornered  hat,  he  walked 
up  to  my  great-grandfather  and  asked  him  whether  it 
was  true  that  he  had  killed  his  son. 

Charles  Jean-Baptiste  shrugged  his  shoulders  :  *  In- 
deed, sir,'  he  replied,  '  allow  me  to  say  that  your  question 
is  at  least  singular.     Do  you  think  that  a  father  capable 

M  2 


of  shedding  his  son's  blood  out  of  a  sense  of  duty  would 
be  foolish  enough  to  reveal  such  a  secret  to  the  first 
idle  courtier  who  questioned  him  ? ' 

The  stranger  turned  red  :  '  Do  you  know  who  you 
are  speaking  to?'  said  he;  'I  am  the  Count  de 

*  I  am  much  honoured  by  your  highness's  query,' 
answered  my  ancestor.  T  am  sure,  at  least,  that,  in  spite 
of  the  severity  of  the  laws  which  punish  attempts  on  the 
lives  of  princes,  I  shall  never  have  to  exercise  my 
function  in  connection  with  you,  for  if  I  were  to  believe 
what  is  said  of  your  highness,  as  you  believed  what  was 
said  of  me,  the  King,  our  Sire,  has  promised  to  pardon 
the  man  who  takes  your  life  as  you  took  that  of  an 
innocent  man.' 

The  Count  turned  pale  with  anger  :  '  I  have  a  good 
mind,'  replied  he,  *  to  punish  your  insolence  with  a  thrust 
of  my  sword.  But  this  would  confirm  the  absurd 
calumny  which  you  have  just  repeated.  Know  that  this 
accusation  against  me  of  the  murder  of  a  tiler  is  the  most 
egregious  of  falsehoods.  If  a  man  did  really  perish  in 
the  manner  described,  it  was  not  by  my  hand  ;  the 
murderer  was  my  brother.  Count  de  Clermont — if  such 
a  word  as  murderer  can  be  applied  to  a  man  who  is 
deprived  of  his  senses.' 

The  story  of  Count  de  Charolais  firing  upon  a  tiler, 
to  -show  his  dexterity,  while  the  poor  artisan  was  work- 
ing on  a  roof,  was  so  generally  told  at  the  time,  that 
my  great-grandfather  had  never  doubted  it.  It  was 
said   that    the    King   had   only   condoned   the    murder 

FAMILY  ANECDOTES,  '        165 

on  condition  that  the  reprieve  should  extend  to  any 
relation  or  friend  of  the  deceased  who  might  attempt  to 
avenge  his  victim.  Charles  Jean-Baptiste  was,  there- 
fore, extremely  surprised  when  he  heard  the  Count 
•denying  a  crime  which  was  so  universally  imputed  to 
him,  and  which  he  was  even  accused  of  regarding  as  a 
trifling  occurrence.  The  altogether  new  version  which 
he  gave  had  a  semblance  of  truth,  for  his  brother  had 
frequently  exhibited  the  behaviour  of  a  lunatic,  and  my 
ancestor  experienced  a  revulsion  of  feeling  in  favour  of 
this  prince  who,  if  public  opinion  charged  him  erro- 
neously, was  more  deserving  of  pity  than  of  blame.  He 
therefore  apologised  for  his  want  of  politeness,  and  after 
satisfying  the  Count's  curiosity  by  showing  him  Charles 
Henri  Sanson,  who  was  playing  in  the  garden,  unaware 
of  the  fate  which  he  was  said  to  have  undergone,  he  ven- 
tured a  few  questions  concerning  the  murder  of  the  tiler. 
The  Count  amply  confirmed  what  he  had  said  before  ;  it 
was  his  brother.  Count  de  Clermont  and  Abbe  de  Saint- 
Germain-des-pres,  who  committed  the  crime  while  in  a 
fit  of  mental  aberration.  As  for  himself,  he  had  nothing 
to  do  with  it,  and  he  even  invoked  the  evidence  of  one 
of  his  attendants. 

'  Chesneau,'  said  he  to  a  young  man  who  was  re- 
spectfully waiting  at  a  short  distance  for  his  master's 
orders,  *  come  forward  and  tell  this  good  man  whether  it 
was  my  brother,  the  Abbe,  who  killed  the  tiler.' 

The  young  man  confirmed  Charolais'  statement. 
The  conversation,  so  unpleasantly  commenced,  ended 
in  mutual  confidences.      Singularly  enough,  Count  de 


Charolais,  in  spite  of  his  rank,  became  almost  a  friend 
of  my  great-grandfather's,  and  never  failed  to  call 
upon  him  whenever  he  came  to  Paris.  The  Count, 
during  his  sojourn  in  the  capital,  lived  in  a  mansion  of 
the  Rue  des  Poissonniers,  and  was  therefore  our  neigh- 
bour. The  faithful  Chesneau  always  accompanied  him. 
Jean-Baptiste  reaped  the  benefit  of  his  acquaintance. 
Since  the  edict  which,  under  the  Regency,  had  sup- 
pressed the  right  of  travage  and  replaced  it  by  a 
permanent  salary  of  sixteen  thousand  livres  a  year, 
Charles  Jean-Baptiste  and  his  father  had  been  very 
irregularly  paid  ;  they  were  sent  from  one  treasury  to 
another,  and  the  poverty  of  the  State  greatly  contributed 
to  this  delay  in  giving  satisfaction  to  the  legitimate 
demands  of  my  ancestors.  A  large  sum  was  owed  to- 
them.  Charles  Sanson  II.  saw  the  Regent,  who,  im- 
pressed by  the  justice  of  his  application,  gave  him  fifty 
thousand  livres  in  notes  of  the  Royal  Bank ;  but  these 
notes  were  already  discredited ;  my  great-grandfather 
could  never  use  them,  and  I  have  them  still  in  my 

Count  de  Charolais  interfered  with  the  King  on 
behalf  of  Charles  Jean-Baptiste,  and  the  latter  at  length 
received  a  considerable  sum  of  which  he  had  the  greatest 
need,  for  during  the  time  of  non-payment  he  had 
defrayed  the  expenses  of  his  office  out  of  his  own 

With  regard  to  this  prince,  my  father  and  grand- 
father never  doubted  his  innocence,  although  he  has  ever 
been  accused  of  the  tiler's  murder.    The  Count  was  rough. 


passionate,  and  haughty,  and  his  relationship  to  the  real 
perpetrator  of  the  crime  gave  rise  to  a  charge  which  his 
temper,  but  not  his  action,  might  have  confirmed.  '  If 
it  was  not  you,  it  was  your  brother,'  posterity  can  say  ;  but 
this  brother  was  a  madman.  I  cannot  otherwise  explain 
the  contradictions  of  the  chroniclers  of  the  time,  some  of 
whom  maintain,  while  others  strenuously  deny,  an  event 
which  has  been  handed  down  to  us  by  hearsay.  I 
believe  that  if,  by  excess  of  pride  or  too  chivalrous 
devotion  to  his  brother,  the  prince  had  not  disdained  to 
give  a  public  explanation,  his  memory  might  now  be 
washed  of  a  stain  which  it  still  bears. 

Neither  was  it  true  that  Louis  XV.  disliked  Count 
de  Charolais  ;  far  from  this,  he  received  him  en  tcte-d- 
tcte,  and  the  Count  often  attended  his  intimate  gather- 
intrs.  This  we  heard  from  the  man  Chesneau,  whom 
I  mentioned  before,  and  who  had  on  more  than  one  occa- 
sion waited  on  the  King  and  the  Count  at  suppers 
to  which  only  members  of  the  male  sex  were  admitted. 
Louis  XV.,  worthy  pupil  of  the  Regent,  had  all  the 
defects  of  his  race  ;  but  he  was  very  aristocratic,  and  al- 
though he  loaded  with  favour  the  Duke  de  Richelieu, 
the  Marquis  de  Chauvelin,  and  a  few  other  boon  com- 
panions, it  is  certain  that  he  more  willingly  gave  vent 
to  his  instincts  in  the  presence  of  a  prince  of  his  own 
blood,  before  whom,  he  imagined,  royal  majesty  ap- 
peared less  lowered.  It  was  only  after  the  death  of 
Charolais,  which  occurred  in  1760,  that  the  King  allowed 
his  favourites  to  have  their  own  way,  and  lost  the  scanty 
dignity  which  had  partially  veiled  his  faults. 


Chesneau  was  very  clever  as  an  armourer  and  en- 
graver ;  he  manufactured  excellent  and  remarkably- 
elegant  guns.  His  talents  were  the  chief  cause  of  the 
affection  which  Charolais  felt  for  him.  One  day  Ches- 
neau was  testing  a  carbine  in  the  gardens  of  the  Hotel- 
de-Charolais,  when  the  weapon  burst  and  seriously 
wounded  the  young  man  in  the  arm  and  wrist.  The 
Count  remembered  the  chirurgical  reputation  of  my 
great-grandfather ;  he  requested  him  to  receive  the 
wounded  man  in  his  house,  and  to  take  care  of  him. 
My  ancestor  probed  the  wound,  which  was  not  dan- 
gerous, and  two  months  after  Chesneau  was  cured.  The 
poor  fellow  was  eternally  grateful  to  us,  and  remained  a 
stout  friend  to  our  family. 

After  the  death  of  Count  de  Charolais,  Chesneau 
became  one  of  Louis  XV.'s  servants  ;  Louis  XVI.  in 
his  turn  had  him  in  his  service,  and  as  this  prince  was  a 
passionate  lover  of  mechanical  arts,  he  held  Chesneau's 
merit  in  high  esteem.  But  when  the  Revolution  broke 
out  the  favour  of  princes  became  a  danger.  Chesneau, 
who  had  accompanied  his  master  from  Versailles  to 
Paris,  was  driven  out  of  the  Tuileries  on  August  lo. 
He  felt  the  danger  of  wearing  the  Court  livery,  to  which 
he  had  been  accustomed  during  the  whole  of  his  life  ;  he 
thought  of  the  house  in  which  he  had  found  kindness 
and  hospitality  when  he  was  wounded ;  and  he  knocked 
at  our  door.  Jean-Baptiste  Sanson  was  dead ;  but  his 
son  was  not  less  hospitable  than  his  father  was.  He  gave 
his  hand  to  the  old  man  and  offered  him  a  shelter  during 
the  storm.     Strange  to  say,  the  servant  of  a  prince  and 


two  kings  had  made  no  fortune  in  the  gilded  atmo- 
sphere of  the  Court.  He  had  eaten  his  daily  bread  with- 
out thinking  of  the  morrow.  What  little  money  he 
received  he  spent  in  the  satisfaction  of  his  artistic 
tastes ;  he  bought  arms  of  all  countries,  and  had  a 
valuable  collection  of  these,  which  was  left  behind  and 

Idleness  and  dependence  were  alike  distasteful  to 
Chesneau,  and  he  endeavoured  to  justify  his  presence 
under  my  grandfather's  roof  by  useful  work.  For  a 
long  time  Charles  Henri  would  not  suffer  him  to  do 
anything  beyond  manufacturing  weapons  ;  but  when  the 
poor  old  man  had  presented  his  host  with  magnificent 
arms,  it  was  impossible  to  prevent  him  from  giving  his 
attention  to  the  machine  which  had  just  replaced  all 
other  instruments  of  torture.  On  several  occasions 
under  the  Terror  he  was  heard  blaming  the  assistants 
for  some  neglect,  and  he  insisted  on  seeing  to  the  good 
order  of  the  guillotine.  '  When  so  many  good  people 
perish  on  the  scaffold,'  he  used  to  say,  '  it  is  of  no  use  to 
make  them  suffer.  Kill  them,  Mordieu !  since  you  are 
obliged,  but  do  not  massacre  them.' 

I  was  so  young  when  old  Chesneau  died,  that  I  have 
but  a  faint  remembrance  of  him.  AH  that  I  can  re- 
collect is,  that  he  was  a  sprightly  little  old  man,  who 
used  to  swing  me  very  agreeably  between  two  large 
trees  in  our  garden,  and  who  made  me  a  present  on 
January  3,  1803,  of  a  charming  little  gun  on  which  was 
engraved,  '  Chesneau,  to  his  young  friend  M.  Henri.' 

The  worthy  man  died  in   1802.     I  could  not  then 


comprehend  all  the  teachings  contained  in  his  life,  which 
began  near  the  throne  and  ended  near  the  scaffold ;  but 
since  then  I  have  often  thought  of  Chesneau  ;  and  I  do- 
not  think  it  possible  to  select  a  more  perfect  impersona- 
tion of  revolutionary  cataclysms  than  the  life  of  this  man, 
which  began  with  the  hospitality  of  kings  and  ended 
with  that  of  the  executioner. 




I  HAVE  now  to  Speak  of  a  third  friend  of  our  family^ 
whose  attachment  was  so  lasting  that  it  extended  from 
Jean-Baptiste  Sanson  to  my  grandfather.  This  friend 
was  Dom  Ange  Modeste  Gomart,  of  the  order  of  the 
RecoUets,  Abbe  of  Picpus. 

At  the  end  of  the  reign  of  Louis  XIV.  and  under 
the  Regency  only  doctors  of  the  Sorbonne  were 
allowed  to  accompany  culprits  to  the  scaffold  ;  but 
under  Louis  XV.  and  Louis  XVI.  this  custom  was 
abandoned,  and  the  most  suitable  ecclesiastics  were 
picked  out  of  every  religious  order  for  the  purpose. 
The  venerable  Father  Gomart  was  designated  for  the 
dismal  duty  of  accompanying  culprits,  and  during  the 
greater  part  of  the  career  of  my  grandfather  he  faithfully 
discharged  it.  None  was  more  fitted  for  such  functions. 
Hjs  face  was  kind,  his  eloquence  was  soft  and  persuasive,, 
and  the  most  hardened  hearts  seldom  remained  un- 
touched by  his  words.  A  deep  sentiment  of  duty  had 
alone  induced  him  to  accept  a  task  which  he  could  only 
accomplish  at  the  cost  of  a  great  effort.  His  strength 
frequently  failed  him  in  the  slow  and   cruel  executions. 


during  which  he  was  compelled  to  remain  near  the 
culprit  and  wipe  away  the  perspiration  that  flowed  from 
his  brow.  This  always  occurred  when  the  punishment  by 
the  wheel,  so  often  resorted  to  by  the  Parliament,  took 
place.  My  great-grandfather  and  my  grandfather  could 
see  the  poor  priest's  distress,  and  they  often  came  to 
his  assistance.  Once  they  took  him  away  in  such  a 
state  of  weakness  that  he  was  unable  to  return  to  the 
convent  where  he  resided,  and  he  was  obliged  to  accept 
our  hospitality  for  a  few  hours.  Touched  by  the  affec- 
tionate attention  which  was  shown  to  him,  he  sur- 
mounted the  horror  which  he  doubtless  felt  for  the 
profession  of  his  hosts,  and  henceforth  showed  real 
affection  for  those  who  shared  his  painful  duties.  He 
often  visited  my  grandfather,  and  came  to  dine  at  our 
house  every  Friday. 

It  was  said  that  Father  Gomart  had  had  a  stormy 
life,  and  that  the  peacefulness  of  his  physiognomy  con- 
cealed a  soul  which  had  been  strongly  tested  by 
passions.  He  had  entered  orders  after  experiencing 
great  sorrows.  Neither  my  father  nor  my  grandfather 
could  ever  ascertain  his  antecedents.  They  were  in- 
duced to  think  that  the  romance  of  his  youth  was  much 
exaggerated  by  those  who  spoke  of  it.  He  was  suffi- 
ciently communicative,  and,  when  at  our  table,  he  ex- 
pressed his  uneasiness  concerning  a  young  niece  of  his 
who  lived  in  Paris,  and  whose  light  and  dissipated  habits 
were  for  him  a  constant  reason  for  alarm.  '  She  is  the 
child,  of  sin,'  said  he ;  '  I  fear  she  feels  the  influence  of 
her  birth.'' 

THE  ABBi:   GOMART.  173 

This  girl,  whose  name  was  Marie  Jeanne  de  Vau- 
bernier,  had  been  educated  at  the  convent  of  Saint 
Anne,  under  the  apparent  care  of  her  godfather,  M. 
Billard  de  Monceau,  but  in  reahty  under  the  protection 
of  the  worthy  Abbe,  who  had  some  reasons  for  con- 
ceahng  from  a  part  of  society  the  affection  he  bore 
her.  Education  had  produced  no  beneficial  result  on 
her  mind.  Her  tastes  were  thoroughly  mundane  ;  and, 
at  her  earnest  entreaty,  she  was  apprenticed  to  a 
famous  dressmaker  named  Labille.  This  change  was 
the  cause  of  her  loss.  In  this  situation,  which  enabled 
her  to  see  every  day  the  elegantes  of  the  Court  and  town, 
her  coquetry  rapidly  increased,  and  filled  her  with  a 
wish  to  emulate  the  brilliant  models  she  saw.  Jeanne's 
beauty  was  remarkable,  and  there  was  no  doubt  that 
her  success  would  be  great  if  she  could  appear  on  a 
scene  Avorthy  of  her  charms.  The  girl  fell  a  prey  to 
her  ambition :  without  her  uncle  being  able  to  prevent 
her,  she  began  to  lead  a  life  of  sin  and  dissipation. 

Jean-Baptiste  Sanson  heard  every  day  the  Abbe 
'  Gomart's  expressions  of  grief.  He  did  not  speak  openly 
of  her  dissolute  habits,  but  he  alluded  to  her  with 
bitterness,  and  he  constantly  deplored  the  privilege  of 
fatal  beauty  which  was  the  chief  cause  of  her  loss.  My 
grandfather,  Charles  Henri  Sanson,  was  then  in  the 
full  strength  and  exuberance  of  youth.  His  imagina- 
tion was  heated  by  the  priest's  description  of  his  niece, 
and  he  soon  felt  a  burning  wish  to  make  the  acquaintance 
of  a  girl  so  beautiful,  who  was  exposed  to  such  peril. 
There  always  mingles  something  noble  and  chivalrous 


with  the  first  impulse  of  a  young  heart ;  and  a  secret  desire, 
a  vague  hope,  to  lead  the  girl  back  to  the  path  of  virtue 
was  blended  in  Charles  Henri  Sanson's  mind  with 
feverish  impatience  to  know  the  belle  so  often  described 
by  the  Abbe  Gomart. 

Charles  Henri  having  learnt  that  Jeanne  de  Vaubernier 
lived  in  the  Rue  du  Bac,  he  repaired  to  the  house  where 
she  resided,  and  watched  all  the  persons  who  entered 
the  house  until  he  saw  one  who  answered  to  the  lady's 
description.  On  the  very  first  day  he  caught  sight  of 
a  girl  whose  dazzling  freshness,  azure  eyes,  coral  lips,  and 
thick  auburn  hair  could  only  belong  to  Jeanne.  She 
was  accompanied  by  a  servant,  who  spoke  with  her  in  a 
light  tone.  They  both  went  to  the  Tuileries  gardens, 
where  my  grandfather  followed  them.  He  kept  at  a 
respectful  distance,  but  his  presence  was  nevertheless 
■discovered.  Far  from  appearing  offended,  she  frequently 
looked  at  him  in  a  more  provoking  than  angry  manner. 

As  I  said  before,  Charles  Henri  Sanson  was  a 
handsome  man,  of  elegant  and  distinguished  presence, 
and  he  wore  the  sword  and  the  three-cornered  hat  with 
as  much  grace  as  any  nobleman.  This  favourable 
appearance  was  no  doubt  the  reason  of  Mdlle.  Jeanne's 
encouraging  looks.  Charles  Henri  followed  her  and  her 
companion  not  only  during  their  walk,  but  back  to  their 

He  repeated  his  performance  on  the  following  day, 
but  he  did  not  speak  to  the  ladles  ;  and  this,  of  course,  did 
not  advance  the  conversion  he  proposed  to  attempt.  He 
had  just  seen  them  disappear  behind  the  entrance  door 


and  was  sadly  pondering  on  the  uselessness  of  human 
eloquence  and  the  difficulty  of  salvation,  when  the 
curtain  of  a  window  of  the  first  floor  was  slightly  raised 
and  Mdlle.  Jeanne's  charming  head  appeared  behind  the 
panes.  This  apparition  did  not  disturb  him,  and  by  his 
looks  he  expressed  as  well  as  he  could  his  desire  that 
conversation  in  dumb  show  should  soon  be  replaced  by 
words.  Either  the  young  person  understood  or  she 
merely  wished  to  know  the  intruder's  business,  for, 
while  Charles  Henri  Sanson's  looks  were  still  centred 
on  the  window,  he  felt  a  pull  at  his  sleeve  and  beheld 
the  servant,  who  made  him  a  deep  bow. 

'Monsieur  le  Chevalier,'  she  said,  giving  him  the 
vague  title  it  was  usual  to  resort  to  when  the  rank  of  a 
stranger  was  not  known,  '  my  mistress,  Mdlle.  de 
Vaubernier,  has  remarked  that  for  the  last  two  days 
you  have  followed  her,  as  if  you  had  something  to 
tell  her ;  she  sends  me  to  you  to  ask  what  that  may 

*  I  wish  indeed  to  speak  to  your  mistress,  but,  not 
knowing  her,  I  hardly  dared  to  accost  her.' 

'  Mademoiselle  can  be  seen,'  answered  the  servant ; 
'she  is  alone,  and  can  receive  whoever  she  pleases. 
Under  what  name  shall  I  announce  M.  le  Chevalier  t ' 

'  My  name  is  of  no  importance,  for,  as  I  said  before, 
your  mistress  never  heard  it.  Still,  as  I  have  no 
reasons  to  conceal  it,  you  may  announce  the  Chevalier 
de  Longval.' 

This  qualification,  which  justified  the  soubrette's 
inference,  appeared  to  her  very  agreeable ;  she  disap- 


peared  and  quickly  returned  saying  that  Mademoiselle 
was  ready  to  receive  Monsieur  le  Chevalier. 

The  dreaded  moment  was  now  at  hand.  Charles  Henri 
Sanson  ascended  the  staircase  and  entered  a  cosy  and 
comfortable  room.  Mdlle.  Jeanne  was  seated  in  one  of 
those  small  arm-chairs  called  bonheur  diL  jour,  which 
were  then  in  fashion.  She  smiled  somewhat  familiarly 
on  my  grandfather,  and  asked  him  to  take  a  seat.  *  Will 
you  now  tell  me,  Monsieur  le  Chevalier,'  she  then  said, ' 
*  what  procures  me  the  honour  of  your  visit } ' 

What  she  asked  was  precisely  that  which  it  was  diffi- 
cult to  explain.  My  poor  grandsire  was  as  embarrassed 
as  Master  Petit-Jean  ;  what  he  knew  the  least  was  how 
to  begin.  How  could  he  tell  the  pretty  sinner  that  he 
came  to  save  her  from  Satan's  claws  }  He  was  very 
young  for  the  accomplishment  of  such  a  task,  and  his 
thoughts,  while  looking  at  Mdlle.  Jeanne,  were  somewhat 

He  resolved  to  break  the  ice  at  once,  and  confess 
himself  beaten  if  he  met  with  any  resistance.  '  Made- 
moiselle,' said  he,  with  a  deep  sigh,  *  you  know,  I  believe, 
the  Abbe  Gomart  1 ' 

At  these  words  the  young  girl  rose,  her  face  turned 
pale ;  anger  appeared  in  her  eye,  and  in  a  trembling 
voice,  she  said : 

*What  is  this,  sir.'^  By  what  right  do  you  speak  of 
M.  Gomart  "i  Are  you,  then,  his  spy  t  I  pity  you  if,  at 
your  age,  you  already  undertake  such  errands,  and  join 
in  persecuting  a  poor  woman.' 

'Mademoiselle,'    exclaimed   my   grandfather,   in   a 


piteous  tone,  *  can  you  believe  this  ?  I  know  the  Abbe 
Gomart ;  but  my  visit  is  quite  spontaneous.  It  is 
because  I  have  often  heard  him  speak  of  you  as  of  a 
niece  for  whom  he  feels  the  tenderest  affection  and  who 
is  being  led  to  perdition,  that  I  resolved  to  seek  you, 
throw  myself  at  your  feet,  and  conjure  you  not  to  for- 
sake virtue,  to  listen  to  the  voice  of  the  worthy  priest 
who  speaks  to  you  with  the  double  authority  of  church 
and  family,  and  whose  dearest  wish  is  for  your  happi- 
ness in  this  world,  and  your  eternal  felicity  in  the 
next ! ' 

And,  suiting  the  action  to  the  word,  Charles  Henri 
Sanson  knelt  before  Jeanne.  At  the  outset  of  this 
harangue,  and  when  my  grandfather  alluded  to  the  love 
of  the  Abbe,  she  appeared  moved  and  tears  came  to 
her  eyes ;  but  at  the  singular  conclusion  of  his  speech 
she  burst  out  laughing,  and  turning  to  the  servant  who 
was  still  in  the  room,  she  said,  unceremoniously,  'What 
a  booby  that  fellow  is  ! ' 

One  can  imagine  Charles  Henri's  embarrassment 
and  stupefaction  at  the  poor  success  of  his  eloquence. 
However,  he  bravely  swallowed  the  epithet,  rose,  dusted 
his  knees,  and,  convinced  that  he  had  to  deal  with  a 
person  who  was  deaf  to  virtuous  exhortations,  he 
abandoned  all  hope  of  redeeming  her,  entered  into  the 
spirit  of  the  scene,  and  even  cut  a  joke  at  the  expense  of 
the  Abbd. 

It  was  now  Jeanne's  turn  to  be  serious.  '  Sir,'  she 
said,  '  I  beg  you  to  speak  of  M.  Gomart  with  more 
respect.  If  his  exhortations  become  ridiculous  when 
VOL.  I.  N 


they  are  repeated  by  a  young  man,  they  are  respectable 
when  they  come  from  his  own  lips.  Remember  that  you 
are  speaking  of  a  member  of  my  family  who  deserves  all 
my  respect.' 

The  reprimand  produced  an  impression  on  Charles 
Henri  Sanson.  He  felt  he  was  not  doing  his  duty  to  his 
venerable  friend.  '  I  assure  you,  mademoiselle,'  said  he, 
*  that  no  one  respects  M.  Gomart  more  than  I  do,  but 
my  first  ideas  when  I  came  here  were  so  confused  that 
I  hardly  know  what  I  have  said  or  what  to  say.  I  feel 
disposed  to  laugh  and  to  cry.  I  am  glad  to  see  you, 
so  young,  so  gay,  and  so  beautiful ;  and  then  I  think  of 
all  that  your  honoured  uncle  says  of  you,  and  I  am 
filled  with  grief.' 

*  I  owe  you  many  thanks,'  answered  the  girl,  in  a 
mischievous  tone,  '  for  the  interest  you  take  in  me  ;  but 
as  our  acquaintance  is  quite  recent,  and  as  my  uncle  has 
never  spoken  to  me  of  a  family  bearing  the  name  under 
which  you  came  here,  you  will  permit  me  to  interrupt 
this  edifying  conversation  and  to  put  ofT further  acquaint- 
ance to  a  future  occasion.' 

'  Oh,  mademoiselle  ! '  cried  my  grandfather,  '  do  not 
treat  me  so  harshly.  My  visit  was  ridiculous,  I  admit, 
but  I  was  led  by  a  high  feeling  of  regard  for  your  uncle, 
and  an  irresistible  desire  to  know  you.  Need  I  tell  you 
that  this  desire  has  increased  since  I  saw  you }  Do 
not  discard  me ;  allow  me  to  be  your  friend.  Some 
day,  perhaps,  my  devotion  may  be  of  some  service  to 

*  There  ! '    said  Mdlle.   Jeanne,   laughing  ;   '  I   took 

THE  ABB&   GOMART,  179 

him  for  my  uncle's  spy ;  and  now  he  insists  on  being 
mine ! ' 

Either  the  prospect  of  knowing  what  her  family 
thought  of  her  took  her  fancy,  or  my  grandfather's 
candour  and  good  faith  touched  her  heart,  for  she 
allowed  him  to  see  her  again,  and  got  to  like  the 
admirer  who  had  paid  his  addresses  in  so  singular  a 

Charles  Henri  Sanson  from  that  time  paid  frequent 
visits  to  Jeanne  de  Vaubernier.  If  the  present  work 
had  scandal  for  one  of  its  objects,  I  might  insinuate  that 
he  was  the  recipient  of  her  favours;  but  I  can  only 
state  what  I  know,  and  my  grandfather  never  spoke  of 
the  friend  of  his  young  days,  who  was  to  become  the 
Comtesse  du  Barry,  otherwise  than  with  respect  and 
fondness.  He  did  not  deny  that  he  loved  her,  and  that 
at  one  time  he  was  quite  enslaved  by  the  charms  of  the 
belle  who  became  the  mistress  of  an  immoral  old  king  ; 
but  he  never  said  that  his  affection  was  returned.  I 
cannot,  therefore,  represent  him  as  the  Jean-Jacques 
Rousseau  of  a  royal  Warens,  although  the  contrast  be- 
tween such  amours  might  appear  striking  enough.  The 
same  discretion  has  not  been  shown  by  others,  for 
Charles  Henri  Sanson's  connection  with  Madame  du 
Barry  has  been  commented  upon  and  travestied  in  the 
most  absurd  manner  by  the  inventors  of  apocryphal 
memoirs.  They  have  represented  my  grandfather  as  a 
mysterious  and  fatal  young  man,  who  followed  the  steps 
of  Jeanne  de  Vaubernier,  predicting  her  grandeur  and 
his  own  fall,  and  mingling  with  these  solemn  warnings  a 


request  for  favours  when  she  should  be  Queen  of  France. 
The)^  make  him  appear  on  two  different  occasions  in  a 
memorable  year  of  the  Countess's  life,  foretelling  her  fate 
in  dark  and  ominous  terms.  I  do  not  wish  at  present 
to  speak  of  the  awful  test  which  was  in  store  for  Charles 
Henri  Sanson  when  he  was  called  upon  to  behead  his 
former  friend ;  but  I  am  bound  to  contradict  this  tissue 
of  inventions  which  has  been  reproduced  in  various 
works.  The  connection  of  Charles  Henri  with  Jeanne 
de  Vaubernier  was  such  as  I  have  related ;  and  as  to 
the  prediction  which  was  attributed  to  him,  it  may- 
have  sprung  from  the  following  circumstance.  By  a 
curious  coincidence  the  favourite  of  Louis  XV.  was 
born  at  Vaucouleurs,  in  the  little  village  that  gave  birth 
to  Jeanne  d'Arc.  The  lightness  of  Jeanne  de  Vaubernier's 
mind  and  manners  did  not  prevent  her  from  entertaining 
the  greatest  admiration  for  the  maid  of  Orleans ; 
and  although  Jeanne  d'Arc  was  not  ranked  among  the 
saints,  she  often  invoked  her  name  and  called  her  her 
protectress.  One  day  as  she  exclaimed,  as  was  her  wont, 
*  By  St.  Jeanne,  my  patroness  ! '  my  grandfather  observed 
that  she  was  not  like  her,  and  that  should  fate  ever  lead 
her  before  a  king  she  would  not  enact  the  part  of 
Jeanne  d'Arc,  but  rather  that  of  Agnes  Sorel. 

Jeanne  was  the  daughter  of  a  dressmaker  named  Becu, 
alias  Cautigny,  who  after  Jeanne's  birth  married  one 
Rangon  de  Vaubernier,  clerk  of  the  customs,  on  condition 
that  the  child  should  be  considered  by  him  as  his  own. 
My  grandfather  had  good  reason  to  believe  that  her  real 



father  was  no  other  than  the  Abbe  Gomart.  He  styled 
her  his  niece,  because  his  position  did  not  allow  of  his 
recognising  her  as  his  child.  For  a  long  time  he  spoke 
of  her  in  terms  of  the  strongest  affection.  Charles 
Henri  Sanson  was  already  in  love  with  her,  and  he 
listened  to  the  old  man  with  eager  ears  ;  and  on  more 
than  one  occasion  he  nearly  betrayed  his  secret.  For 
Mdlle.  Vaubernier  the  executioner  of  Paris  was  still  the 
Chevalier  de  Longval ;  and  he  could  easily  maintain  his 
incognito,  considering  that  uncle  and  niece  saw  very 
little  or  nothing  of  each  other,  and  Charles  Henri 
was  so  much  under  the  fascinating  influence  of  the 
future  Dubarry  that  he  never  revealed  his  avoca- 

Jeanne  was  not  only  gifted  with  ideal  beauty ;  she 
was  supremely  pleasing  and  graceful.  It  is  not  my  in- 
tention to  retrace  her  biography  ;  it  is  quite  enough  for 
me  to  have  to  dwell  on  the  last  chapter  of  it.  I  shall 
not,  therefore,  follow  her  in  her  life  of  adventures  and 
licentiousness,  which  culminated  in  her  connections  with 
a  king.  When  she  became  Louis  XV.'s  favourite  Charles 
Henri  Sanson  had  long  ago  lost  sight  of  her.  The  Abbe 
Gomart  had  ceased  to  speak  of  his  daughter.  She  had 
vainly  attempted  to  conceal  from  him  her  erratic  exist- 
ence. When  she  became  a  royal  mistress,  she  remem- 
bered her  father,  and  thought,  no  doubt,  that  he  would 
readily  make  the  most  of  her  equivocal  elevation.  Im- 
portant personages  went  to  see  Gomart,  and  offered  him 
a  bishopric  ;  but  it  was  all  in  vain.     The  old  priest  was 


not  to  be  allured.  He  declined  every  offer,  and  to  the 
end  of  his  life  he  remained  in  his  pious  retreat,  which 
he  only  left  to  discharge  his  functions  and  to  sit  down 
once  a  week  at  the  executioner's  table. 




It  was  in  the  month  of  January  1754  that  Jean-Baptiste 
Sanson  felt  the  first  effects  of  the  malady  which  deprived 
him  of  the  use  of  his  limbs.  His  eldest  son,  Charles 
Henri,  then  fifteen  years  of  age,  was  tall  and  strong, 
and  with  a  little  assistance  capable  of  taking  his 
father's  place.  But  it  was  the  second  time  that  the 
duties  of  executioner  devolved  on  a  minor  who  might  be 
regarded  as  wanting  in  experience ;  and  this  led  to  a 
contest  between  us  and  those  who  wished  to  gain  posses- 
sion of  the  appanage  of  our  family. 

As  soon  as  my  great-grandfather's  illness  was  known, 
and  although,  thanks  to  Charles  Henri's  assistance, 
there  had  been  no  interruption  in  the  discharge  of 
the  executioner's  functions,  all  sorts  of  intrigues  were 
resorted  to  with  the  sole  object  of  obtaining  the 

It  seemed  as  if  Marthe  Dubut's  life  was  only  pre- 
served in  order  to  see  that  the  inheritance  of  our 
functions  should  be  retained  in  the  family.  She  solicited 
them  on  her  grandson's  behalf ;  and  when  the  procureur- 
gdneral  expressed  a  doubt  that  so  young  a  man  could 


discharge  the  duties  of  executioner,  she  assured  him 
that  Charles  Henri  was  older  than  his  years.  The 
magistrate  told  her  to  bring  the  young  man  with  her  on 
the  next  day.  Marthe  Dubut  returned  accompanied  by 
my  grandfather,  whose  vigorous  constitution  and  pre- 
cocious gravity  completely  satisfied  the  procureur. 
He,  however,  declined  to  invest  him  officially,  and 
Charles  Henri  was  merely  authorised  to  take  his  father's 
place  until  experience  should  prove  his  capacity.  This 
provisional  office  lasted  four-and-twenty  years,  and 
it  was  only  when  Jean-Baptiste  died  in  1778  that  my 
grandfather  became  executioner  en  titre. 

Just  as  Charles  Henri  and  his  mother  entered  the 
procureur's  office  they  met  two  men  who  had  been 
talking  with  the  magistrate.  They  retired  hurriedly, 
and  the  voice  of  the  procureur  was  heard  saying  to  a 
police  officer  : 

*  See  these  fellows  to  their  lodgings,  and  if  they 
are  not  off  in  two  hours,  arrest  them  and  take  them  to 
the  Chatelet.' 

The  two  men  seemed  embarrassed  as  they  passed 
near  Marthe  Dubut ;  but  the  latter  looked  at  them 
steadfastly,  saying  to  her  son  : 

'  My  child,  these  are  ungrateful  relatives  of  yours ; 
they  came  here  to  deprive  you  of  your  father's  in- 
heritance. They  have  had  an  unfavourable  reception, 
it  seems.  When  you  see  them  again  after  my  death  do 
not  forget  the  ill-will  they  bear  you.' 

These  two  men,  father  and  son,  were,  in  fact, 
connected  with  us  by  the  eternal  union  of  executioners' 


families  between  each  other.  They  were  provincial 
executioners ;  and,  hearing  of  my  great-grandfather's 
condition,  they  had  come  to  Paris  to  secure  his 
situation,  'i  hey  had  been  foolish  enough  \o  offer  the 
procureur  a  large  sum  of  money  if  he  would  favour 
them.  Their  attempt  at  corruption  failed,  and  they 
retired  in  dudgeon,  but  glad  to  be  let  off  so  easily. 

I  will  not  quote  the  name  of  these  disappointed 
competitors,  as  they  were  connected  with  my  family, 
and  out  of  deference  to  their  descendants,  who  still  bear 
that  name.  The  same  thing  occurred  to  me  during  my 
seven  years  of  service.  When  it  was  known  that  I  had 
but  little  wish  to  retain  an  office  which  I  hated,  and 
which  I  could  hand  down  to  no  son,  all  kinds  of 
machinations  were  devised  to  obtain  my  dismissal  or  to 
make  sure  of  my  inheritance.  Were  not  such  details 
below  the  reader's  notice,  I  could  tell  a  curious  story  on 
the  matter,  on  the  ambition  of  those  who  wished  to 
take  charge  of  our  grim  functions.  But  let  us  leave  this 
unpleasant  subject,  and  return  to  Charles  Henri  Sanson, 
who  replaced  his  father  during  four-and-twenty  years  be- 
fore he  took  his  official  title.  Marthe  Dubut  died  shortly 
afterwards,  proudly  conscious  of  having  educated  a 
numerous  posterity  for  the  government  of  the  scaffold. 
Her  death  wrought  a  considerable  change  in  the  habits 
of  the  house ;  Charles  Jean-Baptiste  retired  to  the 
country  with  his  wife,  and  Charles  Henri  virtually  be- 
came the  head  of  the  family.  His  tenure  of  office  was 
far  longer  than  that  of  any  other  of  our  race.  We  have 
seen  him  commencing  his  career  in  the  monstrous  tortures 


inflicted  on  Damiens  as  a  punishment  for  an  at- 
tempted regicide  ;  we  shall  soon  find  him  committing  a 
legal  regicide.  We  have  seen  him  executing  Lally  and 
La  Barre,  the  victims  of  intrigue  and  fanaticism  ;  we 
shall  see  him  slaying  thousands  of  victims  during  the 
Terror.  It  appears  to  nre  impossible  to  find  in  any 
country  and  under  any  legislation  a  more  complete 
incarnation  of  the  executioner  than  my  grandfather, 
especially  during  the  Revolution.  As  a  minister  of 
popular  reprisals,  as  the  instrument  of  revenge  which 
had  accumulated  during  ages  against  the  excesses  of 
monarchy,  he  became  the  principal  member  of  the 
State.  Royalty,  the  Gironde,  the  Montagne  successively 
perished  by  his  hands. 

The  latter  part  of  the  reign  of  Louis  XV.  was  not 
bloody  ;  Lally  and  La  Barre  were  the  last  victims  of 
State  and  religion  ;  and  the  Court  did  not  blend  cruelty 
with  vice :  I  only  find  in  my  grandfather's  notes  the 
names  of  common  criminals  of  La  Tournelle.  The  only 
circumstance  worthy  of  notice  regarding  these  cases 
was,  that  all  these  criminals  appealed  to  Parliament 
against  sentences  passed  by  inferior  jurisdictions,  and 
that  these  appeals  usually  led  to  the  infliction  of  severer 
penalties.  Seldom  did  inferior  courts  inflict  the  punish- 
ment of  the  wheel ;  the  gibbet  was  the  instrument  of  death 
they  generally  resorted  to.  Now  when  the  Parliament 
quashed  their  decisions  it  was  only  to  substitute  the 
wheel  for  the  gibbet.  In  a  list  of  obscure  crimes  I 
find  a  case  which  is  worth  mentioning.  A  horse-dealer, 
named  Chabert,  had  an  only  son,  who  was  to  take  his 


father's  business  after  his  death.  The  young  man,  how- 
ever, was  a  debauchee  ;  and  not  only  did  he  spend  his 
time  in  idleness  or  pleasure,  but  he  impatiently  waited 
for  the  time  when  by  his  father's  death  he  would  take 
possession  of  a  small  fortune.  Amongst  his  ordinary 
boon  companions  was  one  Cellier,  who  became  his  confi- 
dant and  accomplice  in  the  horrible  design  young  Chabert 
was  meditating.  Cellier  was  perverse  and  weak,  and  he 
was  easily  persuaded  by  Chabert  to  murder  the  father 
of  the  latter.  They  fixed  the  day  and  hour.  Chabert 
gave  Cellier  a  long  knife  which  he  had  sharpened  himself; 
and  as  Chabert  the  elder  was  returning  home  between 
eight  and  nine  o'clock  at  night,  Cellier  struck  him  twice 
with  this  weapon.  A  struggle  took  place  between  the 
murderer  and  his  victim  ;  the  son  came  to  the  assist- 
ance of  his  accomplice,  and  both  managed  to  escape. 
As  to  Chabert  the  elder,  he  fell  and  died  on  the  spot. 

This  audacious  crime  had  been  committed  near  the 
Palais  de  Justice.  The  judges  of  the  Bailliage  took  imme- 
diate steps  for  the  capture  of  the  assassins.  Chabert  and 
Cellier  were  easily  discovered  and  arrested,  and  on  De- 
cember 12,  1774,  they  were  both  sentenced  to  die  on  the 
wheel.  The  Parliament  confirmed  the  sentence  on  the 
same  day,  and  handed  over  the  culprits  to  the  criminal 
lieutenant  for  its  immediate  execution. 

The  rapidity  with  which  the  whole  affair  was  brought 
to  a  culmination  shows  how  abhorred  by  public  con- 
science were  such  crimes  as  Chabert's.  Parricide  at 
the  time  was  very  rarely  committed.  I  do  not  think 
Charles  Henri   Sanson    had   been    called  upon   before 


this  to  inflict  certain  portions  of  the  sentences,  such  as 
the  amputation  of  the  hand  and  the  burning  of  the  body. 
Executions  were  less  frequent  than  one  might  think 
during  our  professional  experience.  The  punishments 
which  my  grandfather  had  to  see  to  were  chiefly  flogging 
and  marking,  usually  inflicted  on  thieves  and  forgerers. 
Our  modern  laws,  in  France  at  least,  have  abolished 
such  corporal  punishments.  Marking  and  the  pillory 
disappeared  one  after  the  other,  although  they  were  still 
in  force  in  my  time.  Mutilation,  which  always  preceded 
the  execution  of  parricides,  has  fallen  into  disuse. 
Cremation  of  corpses  and  scattering  the  ashes  to  the 
wind  nowadays  would  only  disgrace  justice.  Only  the 
scaffold,  on  which  simple  and  rapid  death  is  inflicted, 
remains  ;  and — may  I  be  allowed  to  say  so  } — I  am  con- 
vinced that  its  days  are  numbered. 

1 89 



This  affair  is  so  well  known  that  to  give  a  detailed 
account  of  it  is,  I  think,  useless.  I  will  therefore  limit 
myself  to  a  brief  summary  of  the  facts  which  caused  the 
arrest  of  the  Cardinal  de  Rohan,  M.  de  Cagliostro, 
M.  Retaux  de  Villette,  and  Mdlle.  Oliva,  and  brought 
Madame  Jeanne  de  Valois  in  contact  with  the  execu- 

One  day  Madame  de  Boulainvilliers,  wife  of  the 
Provost  of  Paris,  met  in  a  village  in  Burgundy  a  little 
girl,  who  held  out  her  hand,  saying:  'My  beautiful  lady, 
for  the  love  of  God,  give  something  to  the  descendant  of 
the  former  Kings  of  France.' 

These  words  surprised  Mdme.  de  Boulainvilliers ;  she 
asked  the  child  to  explain  her  singular  way  of  begging. 
The  curate  of  the  village,  who  was  passing  by,  told 
madame  that  the  child  said  the  truth,  and  that  she  was  the 
lineal  descendant  of  Henri  de  Saint-Remy,  bastard  of 
Henry  II.  and  of  Nicole  de  Savigny. 

Madame  de  Boulainvilliers  also  heard  that  the  child 
was  an  orphan,  and  that  she  lived  on  public  charity. 
She  took  her  to  Paris  ;  her  genealogy   was  examined, 


and  it  was  discovered  that  the  little  Jeanne  de  Valois, 
her  brother,  and  her  sister  were  really  scions  of  the  old 
royal  stock.  A  petition  was  presented  to  the  Queen 
and  to  M.  de  MaurepaS  by  the  Duke  de  Brancas- 
Ceriste.  Pensions  were  granted  to  the  three  children. 
The  boy  entered  the  navy  ;  he  became  a  lieutenant,  and 
died  under  the  name  of  Baron  de  Saint-Remy  de  Valois. 

In  1780  Jeanne  de  Valois  married  a  member  of 
Monsieur's  private  guard,  Comte  de  la  Motte.  This 
officer  was  poor ;  his  wife's  portion  consisted  of  a  small 
pension  ;  and  this  was  insufficient  for  the  ambition  of 
La  Motte  and  his  wife.  MadamQ  de  la  Motte  was 
considered  to  be  a  very  beautiful  woman ;  she  was 
witty  and  attractive,  and  expressed  herself  with  elegance 
and  facility.  She  became  acquainted  with  the  Cardinal 
de  Rohan,  who  lent  her  money  and  protected  her.  It 
is  difficult  to  say  whether  the  prelate's  generosity  was 
quite  disinterested  ;  but  there  is  reason  to  believe  that 
it  was  not,  especially  as  he  lent  Madame  de  la  Motte, 
without  any  plausible  reason,  a  sum  amounting  to  one 
hundred  and  twenty  thousand  livres,  previous  to  the  neck- 
lace affair.  Howbeit  Madame  de  la  Motte  enjoyed  the 
intimacy  of  the  fastidious  prelate,  and  discovered  his  secret 
aspirations.  She  found  out  that  his  desire  was  to  have 
over  the  Queen,  who,  it  was  said,  exercised  a  sovereign 
domination  over  her  husband,  the  same  influence  as 
Cardinal  Mazarin  had  had  with  Anne  d'Autriche.  She 
flattered  his  hobby,  and  used  it  as  the  basis  of  her  future 

The  almost  stupid  simplicity  through  which  M.  de 


Rohan  fell  a  victim  to  the  snare  of  this  wily  woman  will 
afford  an  idea  of  the  prelate's  intellectual  calibre.  Mdme. 
de  la  Motte  persuaded  the  Cardinal  that  she  was  on  terms 
of  intimacy  with  the  Queen  ;  that,  conscious  as  she  was  of 
the  Cardinal's  eminent  qualities,  she  had  so  often  spoken 
of  him  to  her  Majesty  that  the  Cardinal  was  on  his  way  to 
favour;  that  Marie  Antoinette  authorised  him  to  send  her 
the  justification  of  his  supposed  blunders  during  his  em- 
bassy in  Austria  ;  that  she  further  wished  to  have  with  Rohan  a  correspondence  which  was  to  remain  secret 
until  she  could  openly  manifest  her  preference  for  him ; 
that  Madame  de  la  Motte  was  to  be  the  bearer  of  this 
correspondence,  the  result  of  which  must  infallibly  lead 
the  Cardinal  to  the  highest  favour  and  influence. 

Was  Madame  de  la  Motte  at  all  connected  with  the 
Queen }  Most  historians  deny  the  fact.  Anyhow  her 
invention  was  successful.  The  Cardinal  believed  her  and 
was  quite  enthusiastic  ;  he  richly  rewarded  her  for  the 
forged  letters  which  she  gave  him  as  coming  from  the 
Queen ;  and  Madame  de  la  Motte  was  doubtless  encour- 
aged by  his  simplicity. 

A  magnificent  necklace  had  been  ordered  by  Louis 
'  XV.  of  MM.  Boemer  and  Bossange,  the  crown  jewellers. 
It  was  made  for  Madame  du  Barry.  The  King  died 
before  it  was  finished ;  his  favourite  mistress  was 
exiled  by  the  new  monarch,  and  the  beautiful  jewel 
remained  in  the  hands  of  the  makers.  They  offered  it  to 
the  Queen  ;  but  the  price,  which  amounted  to  1,800,000 
livres,  was  thought  too  high.  Madame  de  la  Motte  saw 
the  necklace.     The  jewellers  told  her  they  were  much 


embarrassed  by  the  Queen's  refusal  to  purchase  it ; 
they  were  impeded  in  their  trade  by  such  a  consider- 
able outlay  of  money,  and  they  offered  to  make  a  rich 
present  to  whoever  could  find  a  buyer.  The  Countess 
thought  that  the  Queen  would  be  only  too  glad  to  get 
the  necklace  if  she  had  not  to  pay  for  it ;  and  she  inferred 
that  Marie  Antoinette  could  not  but  feel  very  grateful 
to  the  person  who  would  get  it  for  her.  Her  husband, 
M.  de  la  Motte,  entered  into  the  plot.  They  obtained  the 
support  of  the  Comte  de  Cagliostro,  who  exercised 
a  powerful  influence  over  M.  de  Rohan  ;  and  at  length 
Madame  de  la  Motte  persuaded  the  Cardinal  that  the 
Queen  wished  to  purchase  the  necklace  with  her  own 
money  ;  that,  as  a  token  of  good  feeling  towards  the 
Cardinal,  she  requested  him  to  buy  the  jewel  in  her  name  ; 
and  that  she  would  send  him  a  receipt  written  and  signed 
with  her  own  hand.  This  document  was  handed  to  M. 
de  Rohan  by  Madame  de  la  Motte  ;  it  was  dated  from 
Trianon,  and  signed  *  Marie  Antoinette  de  France.'  How 
the  Cardinal  could  fail  to  discover  the  forgery  when  he 
saw  this  signature,  it  is  difficult  to  say.  The  Queen,  like 
all  the  princesses  who  had  preceded  her  on  the  throne, 
signed  her  Christian  name  only,  and  the  words  *de 
France,'  due  to  the  imagination  of  the  forger  (Retaux 
de  Villette)  were  a  sufficient  indication  of  the  origin  of 
the  document. 

But  he  had  no  suspicion ;  and  really  believing  that  he 
was  acting  in  accordance  with  the  wishes  of  his  sovereign, 
and  thinking  that  the  highest  favour  would  be  accorded 
to  him  for  his  intervention,  he  sent  for  the  jewellers,  and 


showed  them  the  Queen's  receipt.  They  accepted  the 
arrangements  he  proposed,  and  on  February  i  the  casket 
was  handed  to  Madame  de  la  Motte  at  Versailles  ;  and 
it  was  remitted  by  her,  in  the  Cardinal's  presence,  to  a  so- 
called  valet-de-chambre  of  the  royal  household,  who  was 
no  other  than  the  forger,  Retaux  de  Villette.  This  bold 
fraud  was  brought  to  a  conclusion  by  the  departure 
for  England  of  M.  de  la  Motte  with  the  rich  booty. 

After  thus  gaining  possession  of  the  necklace, 
Madame  de  la  Motte  was  not  satisfied  ;  she  hoped  to 
compromise  the  Queen  and  the  Cardinal  still  more.  She 
therefore  set  to  work  again.  Retaux  de  Villette  wrote 
other  letters,  by  which  the  Queen  informed  M.  de  Rohan 
that,  being  unable  to  give  him  public  marks  of  her  esteem, 
she  wished  to  see  him  between  eleven  and  midnight  in 
the  shrubs  of  Versailles.  Madame  de  la  Motte  had  met  a 
girl  of  the  name  of  Oliva,  whose  resemblance  to 
Marie  Antoinette  had  struck  her,  and  who  acted  the 
part  of  the  Queen.  The  meeting  took  place  in  the  Baths 
of  Apollo.  Mdlle.  Oliva's  performance  was  admirable  ; 
she  gave  a  rose  to  the  Cardinal,  who  was  choking  with 
emotion,  and  then  sent  him  away  in  a  state  of  high 

But  the  date  fixed  for  the  payment  of  the  first  instal- 
ment of  the  price  of  the  necklace  was  drawing  near, 
and  the  jewellers  were  somewhat  uneasy.  They  tried 
i  to  ascertain  whether  the  necklace  was  in  the  Queen's 
I  possession ;  but  they  could  not  obtain  an  audience,  and 
Ithey  soon  discovered  that  they  were  the  victims  of  a 
I  robbery.  In  their  indignation  they  made  known  the 
'     VOL.  I.  O 


whole  affair ;  and  it  was  reported  to  M.  de  Breteuil, 
minister  of  the  King's  household.  M.  de  Breteuil  was 
the  Cardinal's  personal  enemy,  and  he  eagerly  seized  the 
opportunity  of  manifesting  his  dislike.  He  had  a  secret 
conversation  with  the  Queen ;  informed  her  of  the 
rumours  that  were  being  circulated  concerning  herself, 
the  Cardinal,  and  Madame  de  la  Motte  ;  and  besought 
her  to  tell  him  if  she  had  any  reason  to  fear  a  public 

The  Queen  answered  that  she  had  no  apprehension 
whatever,  and  that  the  sooner  the  mystery  was  explained 
the  better.  On  August  15  the  Cardinal,  as  great  almoner, 
was  to  officiate  in  the  chapel.  He  was  about  to  assume 
his  religious  robes  when  an  usher  came  to  inform  him 
that  the  King  wished  to  speak  to  him. 

Louis  XVI.,  Marie  Antoinette,  and  M.  de  Breteuil 
were  together  when  the  Cardinal  appeared  in  the  royal 
presence.  The  King  spoke  to  him  in  a  strongly  irritated 
tone  : 

*  Sir,  you  have,  I  believe,  bought  diamonds  at 
Boemer's }  * 

'  I  have,  your  Majesty,'  answered  De  Rohan. 

'  Where  are  they } ' 

M.  de  Rohan  hesitated.  *  I  thought,  Sire,'  said  he, 
at  length,  '  that  these  diamonds  were  in  the  possession  of 
the  Queen.' 

'  Who  directed  you  to  send  them  to  the  Queen .? ' 

'  A  lady  named  Madame  la  Comtesse  de  la  Motte 
Valois.  She  gave  me  a  letter  from  the  Queen,  whos< 
orders  I  thought  I  obeyed  by  purchasing  the  diamonds^ 



The  Queen  here  interrupted  him.  '  How  could  you 
believe,  sir,'  she  exclaimed,  *  that  after  looking  upon  you 
with  disfavour  for  more  than  eight  years  I  could  select 
you  for  such  a  piece  of  business,  and  through  the  inter- 
vention of  such  a  woman  ? ' 

*  I  now  perceive,'  answered  the  Cardinal,  '  that  I  have 
been  cruelly  deceived.  My  wish  to  please  your  Majesty 
led  me  astray.  I  will  pay  for  the  necklace  ....  I  am 
the  victim  of  a  fraud  of  which  before  this  I  had  no  sus- 
picion.    I  am  extremely  sorry.' 

He  produced  his  pocket-book,  and  selected  the 
Queen's  receipt.  The  King  looked  at  it :  '  Why,'  he 
said,  'this  is  neither  the  Queen's  handwriting  nor  her 
signature.  How  could  you,  a  prince  of  the  house  of 
Rohan,  and  the  great  almoner  of  France,  believe 
that  the  Queen  signed  "  Marie  Antoinette  de  France  } " 
Everybody  knows  that  queens  only  sign  their  Christian 

The  Cardinal  was  getting  more  and  more  disconcerted. 
He  was  obliged  to  lean  against  a  table.     The  King  saw 
this,  and  told  him  to  go  into  an  adjoining  room,  where  he 
could  write  his  justification.    M.  de  Rohan  obeyed,  and  re- 
appeared a  quarter  of  an  hour  after,  with  a  paper  which  he 
j  handed  to  Louis.     At  the  door  he  found  M.  de  Jouffroy, 
j  lieutenant  of  the  guards,  who  arrested  him,  and  handed 
I  him  over  to  M.  d'Agoult,  who  took  him  to  the  Bastille. 
I        Madame  de  la  Motte  was  arrested  on  the  following  day. 
i  She  denied  having  in  any  way  participated  in  the  theft 
I  of  the  necklace,  and  she  charged  M.  de  Cagliostro  with 
I  the  crime,  alleging  that  he  persuaded  the  Cardinal  to  buy 

o  2 


the  necklace.  Cagliostro  and  his  wife  were  arrested. 
Madame  de  la  Motte  hoped,  no  doubt,  to  escape  by  in- 
sinuating that  the  Cardinal  as  well  as  Cagliostro  was 
responsible  for  the  necklace;  but,  unfortunately  for 
her.  Mademoiselle  Oliva  was  arrested  in  Brussels,  and 
her  revelations  threw  some  light  on  the  mystery.  Some 
time  after,  Retaux  de  Villette  was  taken,  and  he  was 
confronted  with  M.  de  la  Motte.  In  the  night  of  the 
29th  all  the  accused  were  transferred  from  the  Bastille 
to  the  Conciergerie,  and  on  September  5  letters  patent 
of  the  King  sent  the  case  before  the  Parliament. 

These  letters  were  couched  in:  strong  and  bitter 
terms,  and  brought  against  the  Cardinal  a  terrible 
charge.  The  affair,  which  was  now  publiclv  known,  pro- 
duced deep  sensation.  The  nobility  and  the  clergy  were 
equally  interested  in  the  issue  of  the  trial,  the  two  prin- 
cipal parties  being  the  Queen  and  a  prince  of  the 
Church.  The  trial  was  commenced  on  December  22. 
Madame  de  la  Motte,  who  was  dressed  with  great  care 
and  elegance,  was  brought  in ;  her  face  was  undisturbed, 
and  she  answered  all  the  questions  put  to  her  by  the  presi- 
dent with  the  utmost  coolness  and  presence  of  mind.  The 
Cardinal  appeared  after  her.  The  members  of  the  bench 
showed  him  much  regard,  and  it  was  easy  to  perceive 
that,  perhaps  through  a  spirit  of  opposition  to  the  Court 
of  Versailles,  they  were  favourable  to  him. 

On  December  29  the  procureur-general  read  out  his 
conclusions  ;  they  were  extremely  hostile  to  the  Cardinal. 
The  procureur  demanded  such  humiliating  admissions  , 
as  M.  de  Rohan  could  not  have  made,  and  which  must 


jiave  left  him  in  prison  for  the  remainder  of  his  Hfe.  These 
conclusions  met  with  strong  disapprobation  on  the  part 
of  the  bench.  Sentence  was  pronounced  on  the  31st. 
The  court  condemned  La  Motte,  ifi  contimiaciam,  to 
hard  labour  for  life ;  Jeanne  de  Saint-Remy  Valois,  wife 
of  La  Motte,  to  amende  honorable,  and  afterwards  to  be 
whipped,  and  marked  on  both  shoulders  with  the  letter  V, 
and  also  to  imprisonment  for  life  ;  Retaux  de  Villette  to 
banishment  for  Hfe.  Mademoiselle  Oliva  was  acquitted  ; 
so  was  M.  de  Cagliostro.  As  to  the  Cardinal,  he  was 
cleared  of  all  charges.  This  judgment  was  received  with 
a  kind  of  enthusiasm.  Public  opinion  considered  it,  in 
5ome  sort,  as  a  victory.  The  judges  were  cheered,  writes 
De  Besenval,  and  so  warmly  received  by  the  people  that 
they  made  their  way  through  the  crowd  with  difficulty. 

Madame  de  la  Motte  had  been  left  in  ignorance  of 
the  penalties  pronounced  against  her.  As  the  holidays 
of  the  Parliament  began  on  the  day  of  judgment,  the  exe- 
cution of  the  sentence  was  deferred.  It  was  only  six  months 
later  that  it  was  communicated  to  the  accused.  On 
June  21  M.  de  Fleury,  the  procureur,  sent  for  the  exe- 
cutioner and  informed  him  that  Madame  de  la  Motte  had 
shown  great  violence  of  temper  during  her  incarceration, 
and  that  it  was  to  be  feared  that  she  would  resist.  He 
requested  him  to  arrange  the  execution  of  the  sentence 
so  as  to  avoid  scandal.  A  magistrate,  who  was  present, 
suggested  that  Madame  de  la  Motte  should  be  gagged, 
like  M.  de  Lally  ;  but  Charles  Henri  Sanson  objected,  re- 
minding him  that  the  compassion  which  had  been  evinced 
for  the  old  general  would  be  more  widely  felt  and  ex- 


pressed  if  a  woman  were  subjected  to  the  same  violence. 
It  was  eventually  decided  that  the  execution  should  take 
place  in  the  court  of  the  Conciergerie.  Charles  Hem 
Sanson  asked  the  procureur  to  entrust  to  him  the  man- 
agement of  this  unpleasant  affair,  in  which  judgment  was 
far  more  necessary  than  strength. 

He  began  by  obtaining  information  concerning 
Madame  de  la  Motte's  habits,  and  he  heard  from  th( 
gaoler  that  she  was  on  very  friendly  terms  with  his  wife, 
who  attended  her  in  the  prison.  Following  the  instruc- 
tions of  the  executioner,  this  woman  entered  the  prisoner's 
room,  and  told  her  that  she  was  wanted  outside. 
Madame  de  la  Motte  was  in  bed ;  she  turned  her  face 
towards  the  wall,  and  said  that  she  was  sleepy  and  coulc 
not  rise  so  early.  The  gaoler's  wife  then  told  her  that 
it  was  her  counsel  who  wished  to  speak  with  her.  Thii 
effectually  roused  Madame  de  la  Motte,  who  jumped  oul 
of  bed,  and  lost  no  time  in  dressing.  As  she  waj 
leaving  the  room,  one  of  my  grandfather's  assistants 
who  was  behind  the  door,  seized  her  arm  and  thrust 
under  his  ;  another  assistant  did  the  same  on  the  othei 
side  ;  but  Madame  de  la  Motte,  displaying  such  strengt 
as  could  hardly  have  been  expected  from  a  woman,  shool 
away  their  grasp  and  retreated  towards  the  door.  Charles 
Henri,  however,  had  come  forward  and  was  standing 
against  it.  Madame  de  la  Motte  stopped,  and  lookec 
at  him  with  glistening  eyes.  ^She  was,'  writes  m; 
grandfather,  *  rather  small  in  stature,  but  extremeh 
well  made.  Her  countenance  was  sufficiently  pleasan 
to  conceal  for  a  time  the  irregularity  of  her  features 


her  expressive  physiognomy  was  full  of  charm,  and  it 
was  only  after  minute  examination  that  one  discovered 
that  her  nose  was  very  sharp,  that  her  expressive  mouth 
was  large,  and  that  her  eyes  were  somewhat  small. 
What  was  remarkable  in  her  was  the  thickness  and  length 
of  her  hair,  and  also  the  whiteness  of  her  skin,  and  the 
smallness  of  her  hands  and  feet.  She  wore  a  silk  deshabille^ 
striped  brown  and  white,  and  covered  with  small  nose- 
gays of  roses.  Her  head-dress  was  an  embroidered  cap.' 
While  she  was  eyeing  Charles  Henri  as  if  about  to  leap 
at  him,  the  other  assistants  and  four  police  officers  sur- 
rounded her.  She  perceived  that  resistance  was  useless, 
and,  speaking  to  my  grandfather,  who  had  taken  off  his 
hat :  '  What  do  you  want  with  me } '  she  said. 

'  We  wish  you  to  listen  to  your  judgment,  madame,' 
answered  the  executioner. 

Madame  de  la  Motte  shuddered  ;  she  clenched  her 
hands,  looked  down,  and  then  raising  her  head  :  '  Very 
well,'  she  said.  The  two  assistants,  who  had  at  first  tried 
to  secure  her,  came  forward ;  but  she  motioned  them 
away,  and  advanced  before  them. 

When  the  procession  reached  the  hall  where  a 
parliamentary  committee  was  sitting,  the  clerk  read  out 
the  judgment.  At  the  very  first  words  which  proclaimed 
her  guilt,  the  strongest  emotion  appeared  on  Madame  de 
la  Motte's  face.  Her  eyes  rolled  in  their  sockets  ;  she 
bit  her  lips,  and  the  hitherto  pretty  face  now  seemed  to 
be  the  mask  of  a  fury.  Charles  Henri  foresaw  a  storm 
and  approached  her  :  and  it  was  well  that  he  did  so,  for 
as  the  clerk  came  to  the  penalties,  the  unhappy  woman's 


rage  burst  out  with  extraordinary  violence.  She  fell 
backwards  so  suddenly  that  her  head  must  have  been  frac- 
tured on  the  stones  had  not  my  grandfather  caught  her 
in  his  arms.  It  was  impossible  to  finish  the  reading  of  the 
sentence.  Madame  de  la  Motte's  strength  increased  as 
the  consciousness  of  her  fate  flashed  through  her  mind  ; 
and  a  protracted  struggle  ensued  between  her  and  the 
assistants  who  attempted  to  pinion  her.  She  was  at 
length  carried  down  to  the  court.  The  scaflbld  was  erected 
opposite  the  gate,  which  had  been  left  open.  But  it  was 
six  o'clock  in  the  morning,  and  only  a  limited  number  of 
persons  were  looking  on.  She  was  stretched  on  the  plat- 
form, and  received  twelve  stripes.  She  never  ceased 
shrieking  while  the  punishment  was  being  inflicted. 
She  invoked  vengeance  on  the  head  of  Cardinal  de 
Rohan  ;  and  she  added  that  it  was  her  own  fault  that 
she  had  suffered  the  disgrace  which  had  been  inflicted 
on  her,  since,  had  she  said  but  one  word,  she  would  have 
been  hanged  instead  of  having  been  flogged. 

The  second  part  of  the  sentence  had  no  doubt  es- 
caped her,  for  when  she  was  seated  on  the  platform  she 
remained  motionless,  as  if  completely  subdued  and 
powerless.  Charles  Henri  Sanson  thought  the  moment 
was  w^ell  chosen  for  the  completion  of  the  penalty.  Her 
dress  had  been  torn,  and  her  shoulder  was  bare ;  he 
took  an  iron  from  the  grate  and  applied  it  to  her  skin. 
Madame  de  la  Motte  uttered  a  wild  shriek,  and,  writhing 
in  the  grasp  of  one  of  the  assistants  who  were  holding 
her,  she  bit  his  hand  with  such  fury  that  she  took  a 
piece  of  flesh  ofl".     She  struggled  again,  and  it  was  with 


the  greatest  difficulty  that  the  iron  could  be  applied  to 
the  other  shoulder. 

Justice  was  now  satisfied.  Madame  de  la  Motte  was 
put  in  a  fly  and  taken  to  the  Salpdtriere.  As  she  was 
alighting  she  tried  to  rush  under  the  wheels,  and  a  few- 
moments  afterwards  she  thrust  the  sheet  of  her  bed  into 
her  throat  in  a  frenzied  attempt  to  choke  herself.  Her  im- 
prisonment lasted  ten  months.  She  escaped,  some  said, 
through  the  connivance  of  the  Government,  in  fear  of  the 
revelations  which  M.  de  la  Motte  threatened  to  make  un- 
less his  wife  were  released.  Others  asserted  that  Madame 
de  la  Motte's  husband  bribed  a  sister  of  charity,  who 
assisted  her  in  making  her  escape.  A  sentry  who  was 
under  her  window  gave  her  a  man's  dress,  by  means  of 
which  she  left  the  Salpetriere  and  reached  England. 
She  joined  her  husband  in  London,  where  she  died  in 

202  MEMOIRS  01^    THE  SANSONS. 



It  was  in  1788  that  the  last  instance  of  a  sentence  of 
breaking  on  thewheel  occurred.  The  following  were  the 
circumstances  : 

In  the  Rue  de  Satory  at  Versailles  lived  an  elderly 
smith  of  the  name  of  Mathurin  Louschart.  This  man 
was  the  type  of  artisans  of  former  days  :  he  was  full  of 
prejudices  and  antipathies,  and  a  lover  of  tradition. 
Fully  persuaded  of  the  superiority  of  his  profession  over 
any  other,  he  would  not  have  exchanged  his  leather 
apron  for  a  magistrate's  robes  or  an  abbe's  cassock.  He 
abhorred  new  ideas  ;  the  Montmorencies,  the  Rohans  of 
the  time  had  not  the  supreme  contempt  which  he  pro- 
fessed for  equality,  saying  that  even  if  a  donkey's  ears 
were  ever  so  much  shortened,  it  was  impossible  to  make 
a  horse  of  it.  However,  excepting  his  eccentric  ways  and 
odd  ideas,  Mathurin  Louschart,  or  rather  Master  Mat- 
hurin, as  he  was  called  in  the  neighbourhood,  was  a  good 
man,  who  was  always  true  to  his  word,  was  scrupulously 
honest,  and  often  showed  much  kindness  and  charity 
to  his  poorer  brethren.  He  had  a  son  named  Jean,  a  fine 
and  handsome  young  man,  whom  he  loved  dearly.  It 
was  difficult  to  say  of  which  Master  Mathurin  was  prouder 


— his  superior  capacity  as  a  smith,  or  of  his  child.  He 
sent  him  to  school  and  gave  him  the  best  education  money 
could  procure.  But  while  he  was  glad  to  see  his  son 
brought  up  as  a  gentleman,  he  was  so  enamoured  with 
his  own  calling  that  he  prevailed  on  Jean  to  adopt  it. 

The  young  man  yielded  to  his  father's  wishes  with 
some  regret ;  but,  although  he  attended  to  his  pro- 
fessional duties  with  tolerable  industry,  he  nevertheless 
went  on  reading ;  and  he  took  more  interest  in  Jean- 
Jacques  Rousseau  than  in  shoeing  horses.  The  father 
did  not  oppose  this,  although  the  difference  of  education 
and  ideas  which  existed  between  them  became  a  cause 
of  serious  quarrel  between  father  and  son.  Revolution 
was  brewing,  and  Jean  Louschart  supported  the  new 
ideas  which  filled  the  masses  with  extreme  enthusiasm. 
Jean  had  the  greatest  respect  for  Voltaire,  Rousseau, 
Montesquieu,  and  Diderot,  while  Master  Mathurin  re- 
garded them  as  creatures  of  hell.  One  day  at  dinner 
the  young  man,  carried  away  by  his  enthusiasm,  extolled 
the  merits  of  these  philosophers.  Master  Mathurin,  who 
hitherto  had  never  suspected  that  his  son  was  a  free- 
thinker, was  at  first  astounded  at  his  audacity  ;  but  his 
stupefaction  was  soon  succeeded  by  anger.  A  dispute  fol- 
lowed, and  Jean  was  peremptorily  ordered  to  hold  his 
tongue.  The  young  man  who,  although  respectful,  was 
passionate  and  headstrong,  disobeyed  the  injunction,  and 
retorted  that  his  father  had  a  novel  way  of  settling  a  dis- 
cussion. This  of  course  did  not  mend  matters ;  and  at 
length  Master  Mathurin  showed  his  son  the  door.  It  was 
in   vain    that  Jean  expressed  his  regret  and  readiness 


to  apologise  ;  the  old  smith  would  listen  to  no  excuse, 
and  turned  him  out. 

Shortly  before  this  a  widow  slightly  related  to  Master 
Mathurin  had  come  to  live  in  his  house  together  with  her 
daughter.  Madame  Verdier — such  was  the  new-comer's 
name — had  taken  a  dislike  to  Jean  ;  and,  although  the 
young  man  felt  no  great  affection  for  her,  he  was  smitten 
by  the  charms  of  Helen  Verdier,  her  daughter,  and  his 
affection  was  returned.  No  doubt  father  and  son  might 
have  made  it  up,  and  Jean  was  anxious  for  a  reconcilia- 
tion— for  more  reasons  than  one  ;  but  Madame  Verdier 
interfered  and  incited  Master  Mathurin  to  discard  Jean 
for  ever.  She  even  went  further ;  her  influence  with 
him  was  so  great  that  she  persuaded  him  to  become 
Jean's  rival  by  suing  for  Helen's  hand.  The  poor  girl  was 
ordered  by  her  mother  to  forget  Jean  and  prepare  to 
marry  Master  Mathurin. 

Jean  had  easily  found  work  in  Versailles  ;  he  was 
employed  by  a  man  who  afterwards  became  a  notorious 
member  of  the  Convention,  Lecointre.  He  took  his 
master's  advice ;  and,  as  it  was  evident  that  Mathurin 
wished  to  marry  out  of  spite  against  his  son,  the  latter  de- 
termined to  elope  with  his  sweetheart.  Jean  punctually 
repaired  to  his  father's  house  on  the  night  appointed  for 
his  flight  with  Helen  ;  he  waited  outside  for  some  time, 
but  Helen  did  not  appear.  He  was  getting  uneasy 
when  from  the  house  issued  shrieks  which  he  imme- 
diately recognised  as  Helen's.  He  broke  the  door  open 
without  a  moment  of  hesitation,  and  beheld  Madame 
Verdier,  who,  having,  no  doubt,  discovered  the  projected 


elopement,  was  unmercifully  beating  her  daughter,  while 
Master  Mathurin  Avas  grimly  looking  on. 

The  sight  was  too  much  for  Jean  ;  he  rushed  forward 
to  protect  his  sweetheart ;  but  his  father  stopped  him,, 
and,  with  the  utmost  violence,  upbraided  him  for  what 
he  styled  his  infamous  conduct.  Madame  Verdier  now 
came  forward  also,  and  goaded  the  old  smith  to  such  a 
climax  of  fury  that  he  spat  in  his  son's  face.  Jean  had 
suffered  in  silence  ;  but  this  last  insult  was  too  much 
for  his  temper,  and  he  retorted  with  words  of  extreme 
bitterness.  At  this  Mathurin's  rage  knew  no  bounds ; 
he  seized  a  crowbar  and  aimed  a  terrific  blow  at  Jean. 
The  passage  in  which  this  scene  was  taking  place  was  so 
narrow  that  the  bar  struck  against  the  wall  as  if  came 
down,  and  Jean  was  able  to  leap  aside.  Helen,  who 
was  gazing  with  terror  at  the  awful  contest,  cried  to  Jean 
to  fly.  The  young  man  followed  her  advice,  and  made  for 
the  door  while  his  father  was  raising  his  crowbar  for  the 
second  time  ;  but  the  woman  Verdier  had  anticipated 
him  and  was  resolutely  standing  against  it.  Mathurin 
struck  a  second  blow,  and  again  missed  his  aim .  As  he 
was  raising  the  crowbar  for  the  third  time,  Jean  rushed 
past  him,  and  tried  to  enter  the  workshop,  whence  he  in- 
tended to  jump  through  the  window  into  the  street ;  but 
the  door  of  the  workshop  was  also  locked,  and  his  father 
was  giving  chase  ;  as  he  tried  to  break  it  open,  a  heavy 
mass  of  iron  whizzed  just  above  his  head,  and  struck  one 
of  the  panels,  which  it  shattered  to  pieces.  Old  Lous- 
chart  had  laid  down  his  crowbar,  and  had  hurled  his 
heavy  hammer.     He  now  came  up  and  grappled  with 


Jean,  who  now  felt  that  he  could  only  save  his  life  by 
mastering  him.  He  seized  his  father's  arm,  as  it  was 
poising  the  hammer  over  his  head  for  the  fourth  time, 
and  tried  to  wrench  the  weapon  from  his  grasp.  The 
old  man,  however,  was  yet  possessed  of  great  physical 
strength  ;  but  his  son  was  young  and  muscular,  and  he 
succeeded  in  overthrowing  him.  He  disarmed  him,  tore 
himself  away  from  his  grasp,  rose  to  his  feet,  and  took  to 
flight.  As  he  was  crossing  the  threshold,  hardly  know- 
ing what  he  was  about,  he  threw  behind  him  the  heavy 
hammer,  and  rushed  out.  So  rapid  was  his  flight  that 
he  did  not  hear  a  cry  in  the  workshop  after  he  had  flung 
back  the  hammer.  Master  Mathurin  had  just  risen  from 
the  ground ;  the  heavy  mass  of  iron  struck  him  above 
the  right  eyebrow  and  fractured  his  skull. 

Madame  Verdier  came  to  the  old  smith's  assistance  ; 
but  he  was  quite  dead.  The  neighbours,  roused  by 
Helen's  cries,  entered  the  house.  They  were  told  by 
Madame  Verdier  that  Jean  had  murdered  his  father. 
Mathurin  was  liked,  in  spite  of  his  defects  ;  and  great 
indignation  prevailed.  The  news  soon  spread  through- 
out Versailles,  and  was  a  subject  of  general  conversa- 
tion from  the  palace  to  the  workshop.  The  crime  of 
parricide  occurred  so  rarely  that  the  death  of  Mathurin 
excited  deep  emotion ;  and  the  King  himself  ordered 
M.  de  Lamoignon  to  proceed  against  the  culprit  without 
a  moment's  delay. 

Madame  Verdier's  evidence  wa*s  taken  ;  she  swore 
that  she  had  seen  Jean  aim  the  deadly  blow.  As  to 
Helen,  the  tragic  events  of  the  night  had  so  bewildered 

THE  AUT0-DA-F£:   of   VERSAILLES.  207 

her,  that  no  importance  was  attached  to  her  evidence. 
Jean  was  arrested  at  Sevres,  and  led  back  to  Versailles, 
amidst  vociferous  groans  and  hisses  from  the  crowd. 
When  he  was  taken,  he  expressed  the  most  unfeigned 
surprise  ;  those  who  took  him  to  prison  informed  him  of 
the  death  of  his  father,  and  of  the  presumptions  which 
led  the  public  and  the  judicial  authorities  to  believe  that 
he  was  the  murderer.  The  news  filled  him  with  such 
grief  that  he  at  first  seemed  to  forget  that  he  was  charged 
with  an  awful  deed.  When  he  fully  understood  that  he 
was  taken  for  the  assassin  of  the  man  whose  death  he  so 
deeply  lamented,  he  vehemently  protested.  He  was 
taken  to  his  father's  house,  and  when  he  saw  the  old 
man's  corpse,  he  rushed  forward  and  passionately  kissed 
the  pale  face.  Madame  Verdier's  evidence  was,  how- 
ever, so  precise  that  the  magistrate  who  accompanied 
him  took  his  grief  for  a  display  of  sheer  hypocrisy.  He 
questioned  Jean,  and  as  the  latter  was  asserting  that  he 
had  merely  protected  himself,  and  had  not  raised  a  finger 
against  the  old  smith,  the  magistrate  pointed  to  the 
wound  and  then  to  the  hammer.  Jean  seemed  suddenly 
to  remember  that  he  had  thrown  the  hammer  back  into 
the  house  as  he  was  running  away.  He  understood 
what  had  taken  ^place,  but  saw  that  it  would  be  im- 
possible for  him  to  convince  his  judges  of  his  innocence. 
He  stated  the  truth  to  the  magistrates,  adding  that  he 
would  not  defend  himself,  and  that  as  he  had,  although 
unwittingly,  caused  the  death  of  the  man  from  whom  he 
had  received  life,  he  would  suffer  without  a  murmur. 
The  trial  took  place  at  the  Chatelet.     But,   mean- 


while,  public  feeling  had  greatly  altered  as  the  facts  of 
the  case  transpired.  Jean  had  many  friends  too,  and 
they  strived  to  show  not  only  that  he  was  not  guilty,  but 
that  he  had  been  the  patient  victim  of  the  whims  and 
acrimonious  temper  of  old  Mathurin.  They  succeeded 
so  well  that  public  sympathy,  in  Versailles,  was 
thoroughly  aroused  in  the  prisoner's  interest,  and  Jean's 
trial  assumed  the  importance  of  a  political  affair.  As  he 
had  announced,  Jean  did  not  defend  himself ;  he  would 
not  even  discuss  or  contradict  Madame  Verdier's  evi- 
dence ;  and  the  court  sentenced  him  to  die  on  the  wheel. 
The  prisoner,  however,  was  not  condemned  to  amende 
honorable,  which  included  the  amputation  of  the  hand  ; 
and  the  judges  added  a  retenticm  to  their  sentence  by 
which  Jean  Louschart  was  to  be  secretly  strangled 
before  his  limbs  were  crushed. 

Now  public  opinion,  in  Versailles,  had  already  settled 
that  Jean  was  innocent,  and  the  news  of  his  forthcom- 
ing execution  caused  general  excitement.  The  exe- 
cution was  appointed  to  take  place  on  August  3.  On 
the  morning  of  the  2nd,  Charles  Henri  Sanson  sent  from 
Paris  two  carts  containing  the  instruments  of  torture, 
and  beams  and  boards  for  the  erection  of  the  scaffold. 
He  himself  went  to  Versailles  in  the  afternoon.  The 
emotion  caused  by  Jean  Louschart's  impending  fate  was 
limited  to  Versailles;  and  my  grandfather  was  so 
thoroughly  convinced  that  he  had  to  deal  with  a  vulgar 
criminal  that  he  was  greatly  surprised  when  he  found 
the  whole  town  in  a  fever.  The  Place  Saint-Louis  was 
covered  with  so  great  a  multitude  that  the  assistants  and 


carpenters  could  hardly  go  on  with  their  work.  No 
hostility  was  manifested,  however  ;  the  crowd  was  noisy, 
but  its  mood  was  gay  ;  the  name  of  Jean  was  scarcely 
pronounced  ;  and  the  workmen  who  were  erecting  the 
platform  were  merely  jeered.  One  of  the  carpenters 
having,  however,  struck  an  urchin  who  was  throwing 
stones  at  him,  cries  of  *  Death  ! '  were  uttered  ;  in  an 
instant  all  the  mocking  faces  became  dark  and  threaten- 
ing ;  the  assistants  and  carpenters  were  attacked,  and 
their  lives  were  in  great  danger.  But  a  body  of  a  hun- 
dred men,  who  could  easily  be  identified  as  smiths  by 
their  athletic  proportions  and  brawny  faces,  interfered, 
and  partly  by  strength,  partly  by  persuasion,  they  in- 
duced the  crowd  to  retreat. 

My  grandfather  had  not  bestowed  much  attention  on 
this  popular  demonstration,  but  he  became  more  attentive 
when  the  interference  of  the  smiths  took  place.  He  felt 
convinced  that  the  crowd  was  obeying  a  by-word,  and 
that  if  it  had  retreated  it' was  merely  because  it  pre- 
ferred to  wait  for  a  more  favourable  time  for  action. 
He  directed  his  assistants  to  finish  the  erection  of  the 
scaffold  as  quickly  as  possible,  and  returned  to  Paris, 
where  he  lost  no  time  in  acquainting  the  proper  autho- 
rities with  his  apprehensions. 

Political   emotion  had    already  given  rise  to  many 

)rms  in  the  provinces.  Normandy,  Bretagne,  Beam  had 
ii:5en  on  behalf  of  their  parliaments,  attacked  in  their 
(privileges.  Dauphine  had  taken  a  decisive  step  ;  after  a 
long  series  of  riots,  the  representatives  of  the  three 
orders,  nobility,  clergy,  and  tiers-^tat,   had   assembled, 

VOL.  I.  P 


and  proclaimed  their  provincial  independence.  Paris, 
however,  had  heard  with  indifference  of  the  arrest  of 
two  members  of  the  Parliament  d'Espremenil  and 
Monsabert ;  and  the  authorities  had  no  idea  that  a 
struggle  between  the  Government  and  the  people  could 
take  place  in  the  very  town  inhabited  by  the  King 
and  his  Court,  so  that  only  a  few  soldiers  were  sent  to 

The  multitude  which  had  thronged  the  Place  Saint- 
Louis  retired  during  the  night ;  only  a  few  young  men 
remaining  to  watch  what  took  place  around  the  scaffold. 
It  was  rumoured  that  Helen  Verdier  had  thrown  herself 
at  the  Queen's  feet,  imploring  the  reprieve  of  the  culprit, 
and  that  Marie  Antoinette  had  prevailed  on  the  King 
to  grant  it.  The  news  had  doubtless  led  to  the  disper- 
sion of  the  crowd. 

Charles  Henri  Sanson  made  the  most  of  the  circum- 
stance. He  caused  a  strong  paling  to  be  erected  around 
the  scaffold  ;  and,  on  their  side,  the  executive  magis- 
trates took  upon  themselves  to  advance  the  hour  of  exe- 

It  was  two  o'clock  in  the  morning  when  my  grand- 
father left  the  Place  Saint-Louis  for  the  prison,  and  he 
remarked  that  the  men  who  were  still  in  the  plac 
dispersed  in  different  directions  as  he  went  away.  Jes 
Louschart  was  stretched  on  his  pallet  when  he  enters 
his  cell.  The  doomed  man  rose  and  calmly  surveye 
him.  The  clerk  of  the  parliament  read  aloud  the  sei 
tence,  to  which  he  listened  with  much  attention, 
then  murmured  a  few  words,  among  which  only  thos 


of  '  Poor  father  ! '  were  heard,  and  he  added  in  a  loud 
voice  : 

'  In  two  hours  I  shall  justify  myself  before  him.' 

On  being  told  that  it  was  time  to  depart  for  the 
scaffold,  he  turned  to  the  executioner,  saying,  '  You  can 
be  in  no  greater  hurry  than  I  am,  sir.' 

At  half-past  four  o'clock  the  cart  moved  in  the 
direction  of  the  Place  Saint-Louis.  The  executive  magis- 
trates were  in  hopes  that,  owing  to  the  retentumy  ever>^- 
thing  could  be  finished  before  the  population  awoke. 
But  they  soon  perceived  their  mistake.  The  streets  were 
swarming  with  people.  The  whole  of  the  population 
was  astir.  Deafening  clamours  burst  from  the  crowd  as 
the  cart  appeared,  and  it  was  with  the  greatest  difficulty 
that  it  made  its  way.  The  prisoner  did  not  even  seem 
to  suspect  that  all  this  movement  was  caused  by  the 
sympathy  people  felt  for  him.  At  the  corner  of  the 
Rue  de  Satory  a  piercing  cry  was  heard,  and  a  girl  was 
seen  waving  her  handkerchief.  Jean  Louschart  looked 
up,  and  rising  to  his  feet,  he  tried  to  smile,  and  ex- 
claimed, *  Farewell,  Helen,  farewell ! '  At  that  moment 
a  smith  of  high  stature  and  herculean  proportions,  who 
was  walking  near  the  cart,  cried  in  a  thundering  voice  : 

'It  is  ail  revoir  you  should  say,  Jean.  Are  good 
fellows  like  you  to  be  broken  on  the  wheel  ?  * 

A  horseman  drove  him  back,  but  applause  and  cheers 
came  from  every  quarter.  It  was  obvious,  by  the  pale 
faces  of  the  clerk,  the  policemen,  and  the  soldiers  who 
surrounded  the  cart,  that  the  agents  of  the  law  were  any- 
thing but  confident.     The  scaffold,  however,  was  reached 

p  2 


without  accident.  The  crowd  was  thickly  packed  on  the 
Place  Saint-Louis.  As  the  cart  stopped  Jean  Louschart 
addressed  a  question  to  the  priest  who  was  sitting  near 
him,  and  my  grandfather  heard  the  latter  answer,  *  To 
save  you.'  '  No,  father,'  said  the  doomed  man  in  a 
feverish  voice  and  with  some  impatience  ;  ^  if  I  am  inno- 
cent of  the  intention  of  committing  the  crime,  my  hands 
are  nevertheless  stained  with  blood.  I  must  die,  and  I 
wish  to  die. — Be  quick,  sir,'  he  added,  turning  to  my 

'  Sir,'  answered  Charles  Henri,  pointing  to  the  in- 
furiated masses  that  were  already  breaking  through  the 
paling,  *  if  there  is  a  man  here  who  is  in  danger  of  death 
it  is  not  you.' 

,  Hardly  were  the  words  out  of  his  mouth  than  a 
tempest  of  groans  and  screams  burst  forth.  The  paling 
was  broken  and  trodden  under  foot,  and  hundreds  of  men 
rushed  on  the  scaffold.  The  smith  who  had  already 
spoken  to  Louschart  was  among  the  foremost.  He 
seized  the  prisoner  in  his  muscular  arms,  cut  his  bonds, 
and  prepared  to  carry  him  off  in  triumph.  An  extra- 
ordinary scene  now  took  place ;  Jean  Louschart 
struggled  violently  against  his  saviours,  turned  towards 
the  executioner  and  begged  for  death  with  the  earnest- 
ness usually  displayed  by  other  culprits  in  asking  for 
mercy.  But  his  friends  surrounded  him,  and  at  lengtl 
succeeded  in  carrying  him  away. 

My  grandfather's  position  was  perilous  in  the  ex^ 
treme.     Separated  from  his  assistants,  alone  amidst 
crowd  that  knew  him  but  too  well,  he  really  thought  that 


his  last  hour  was  at  hand.  His  countenance  probably 
betrayed  his  thoughts,  for  the  tall  smith  came  up  to 
him,  and  seized  his  arm  :  '  Fear  nothing.  Chariot,^ '  he 
cried;  '  we  don^tjwant  to  harm  you,  but' your  tools. 
Henceforth,  Chariot,  you  must  kill  your  customers  with- 
out making  them  suffer.'  And  speaking  to  the  crowd  : 
*  Let  him  pass,  and  take  care  he  is  not  hurt.' 

This  harangue  calmed  the  crowd,  and  my  grand- 
father was  allowed  to  withdraw.  In  less  time  than  it 
takes  to  write  this  account  the  scaffold  and  all  its  acces- 
sories were  broken  into  pieces,  which  were  thrown  on  the 
pile  prepared  for  the  burning  of  the  prisoner's  body  ; 
and  the  terrible  wheel  was  placed  on  the  summit  as  a 
kind  of  crown.  Fire  was  set  to  the  heap,  and  men  and 
women,  holding  each  other  by  the  hand,  formed  an 
immense  ring  and  danced  around  the  crackling  pile  until 
it  was  reduced  to  ashes. 

'  This  name,  popularly  given  to  Charles  Henri  Sanson,  has  been  re- 
tained and  is  still  familiarly  given  to  the  executioner. 




In  the  preceding  chapter  I  have  shown  the  last  appear- 
ance of  the  wheel  as  an  instrument  of  death.  The 
origin  of  this  punishment  is  not  certain ;  but  it  is 
generally  believed  that  the  fable  of  Ixion  suggested  it; 
and  there  can  be  no  doubt  that  if,  later,  it  was  so  con- 
spicuous among  the  penalties  of  Christian  societies,  it 
was  because  it  was  a  substitute  for  crucifixion,  which 
could  not  have  been  retained  without  fear  of  committing 

I  have  already  given  instances  of  the  singular  liking 
shown  by  parliaments  for  this  punishment.  It  is  easy 
to  imagine  how  often  it  was  resorted  to  when  it  is  re- 
membered that  the  old  criminal  legislation  of  France 
inflicted  it  in  one  hundred  and  fifteen  kinds  of  crimes. 
Francis  I.  and  his  minister  Cardinal  Duprat  were  re- 
sponsible for  this  excess  of  barbarity.  An  edict  issued 
under  the  reign  of  Francis  made  of  the  wheel  the  special 
punishment  of  highwaymen  and  burglars^  the  gibbet 
being  reserved  for  murderers.  Human  life,  at  the  time, 
was,  it  appeared,  less  sacred  than  property,  since  attempts 
on   the  former  were   less  severely  punished  than  raids 


on  the  latter.  This  anomaly  could  not  long  continue  ; 
under  subsequent  reigns,  thieves,  assassins,  parricides 
were  broken  on  the  wheel  with  additional  or  mitigated 
inflictions,  according  to  the  nature  of  the  crime.  The 
gibbet  became  a  secondary  punishment,  and  almost  fell 
into  disuse  in  comparison  with  its  flourishing  period 
under  the  superintendence  of  our  famous  predecessor 
Tristan  I'Hermite. 

From  1770  to  1780  I  find  in  my  grandfather's  notes 
that  culprits  broken  on  the  wheel  were  far  more  numerous 
than  those  who  perished  by  the  noose.  In  1769,  on 
January  18,  Etienne  Charles  and  Francois  Legros,  sen- 
tenced for  murder;  on  the  21st,  Andre-Etienne  Petit, 
for  common  theft ;  on  April  2jy  Francois  Boussin,  for 
theft  and  murder ;  on  August  22,  Jean  Brouage,  for 
stealing  linen  ;  on  September  22,  Jean  Lemoine,  for 
murder  ;  in  1771,  on  August  19,  Francois  Alain,  for 
murder  ;  in  1772,  on  January  16,  Louis  Frangois  Daux, 
for  murder ;  on  the  29th,  Frangois  Abraham  Lecerf,  for 
theft ;  on  August  4,  Joseph  Savel,  for  theft ;  on  Decem- 
ber 7,  Marie  Picard,  her  son  Pierre,  aged  seventeen,  and 
a  man  named  Nicolas  Rose,  for  robbing  and  murdering 
one  Michel  More;  in  1775,  on  January  14,  Edme 
Brochart,  for  theft  and  murder;  on  May  16,  Charlotte 
Beuton,  for  murder ;  on  September  27,  Paul  Darel,  for 
theft;  in  1777,  on  July  11,  J.  B.  Campagnard,  for 
murder  ;  in  1778,  on  July  21,  Jacques  Neuiller,  for  theft; 
on  September  2,  Mathurin  Barsagoult,  for  the  same 

I  have  only  quoted  a  few  examples  ;  otherwise    I 


could  fill  half  a  volume  with  the  names  of  culprits  who , 
were  broken.     The  wheel  always  excited  the  disgust  of] 
the  public  at  large,  and  all  the  petitions  of  the  deputies 
to  the  States-General  in  1789  asked  for  its  abolition. 

Before  entering  into  the  period  of  the  Revolution, 
I  may  be  allowed  to  say  a  few  words  respecting  my 
grandmother,  and  her  management  of  our  house.  The 
death  of  Marthe  Dubut  and  the  departure  of  Jean- 
Baptiste  Sanson  had  brought  into  it  an  atmosphere  of 
loneliness.  Charles  Henri  Sanson  soon  felt  this  and 
'  thought  of  marrying.  He  had  retained  certain  elegant 
habits  and  was  passionately  fond  of  shooting ;  and  his 
frequent  absence  from  home,  and  his  consequent  in- 
ability to  see  to  the  management  of  his  household  affairs, 
made  him  especially  eager  to  find  a  wife  as  soon  as 

The  environs  of  Montmartre  were  then  cultivated 
by  market  gardeners.  Charles  Sanson  often  traversed 
these  parts  in  his  excursions.  He  became  acquainted 
with  one  of  the  gardeners,  who  had  a  numerous  family. 
His  eldest  daughter,  Marie  Anne  Jugier,  was,  in  every 
respect,  an  excellent  person.  My  grandfather  had  often 
admired  her,  and  he  sued  for  her  hand,  although  she  was 
thirty-two  years  of  age — six  years  older  than  himself. 
His  suit  was  accepted,  and  on  January  20,  1765,  the 
wedding  took  place  in  the  church  of  Saint-Pierre  Mont- 

Although  my  grandmother  was,  as  I  have  just  ob- 
served, older  than  my  grandfather  by  six  years,  she 
survived    him  more  than   twelve  years.       I  knew    her 


we][l,_and  it  is  to  her  that  I  was  indebted  for  many 
details  which  enabled  me  to  complete  her  husband's 
"notes  on  a  memorable  period  of  French  history. 

"Charles  Henri  Sanson  had  every  reason  to  be  satis- 
fied with  the  choice  he  had  made.  His  excellent  wife 
managed  his  household  with  great  skill  and  judgment, 
and  won  every  heart  by  her  "gentle  disposition  and  kindly 
manner.  Hardly  a  year  had  elapsed  since  her  marriage 
when  Jean-Baptiste  Sanson  returned,  on  the  occasion  of 
the  execution  of  Lally  Tollendal.  Some  time  after- 
wards the  old  man  lost  his  wife,  Madeleine  Tronson  ;  he 
left  his  farm  of  Brie-Comte-Robert  and  came  back  to 
the  old  house  in  Paris.  He  Hngered  for  several  years, 
and  during  the  course  of  his  gradual  decline  Marie 
Anne  Jugier  constantly  attended  him.  Her  devotion 
to  the  patient  was  unceasing.  Jean-Baptiste  expired  in 
August  1778,  and  it  was  his  daughter-in-law  who  closed  his 
eyes.  My  grandfather  was  superintending  an  execution 
on  the  Place  du  Chdtelet  at  the  moment  of  the  old  man's 
death.     He  only  heard  of  the  sad  news  on  his  return. 

The  Abbe  Gomart  opened  Jean-Baptiste's  will.  The 
deceased  expressed  a  wish  to  be  buried  with  his  father 
in  the  Saint-Laurent  church.  An  old  sexton  showed 
me  when  I  was  a  boy  the  stones  which  cover  the  graves 

I  of  my   two    ancestors.      Jean-Baptiste's  property    was 

j  equally  divided  between  his  sons,  who,  as  it  has  been 
said    before,    were     very    numerous.      Charles    Henri 

\  Sanson  was  therefore  compelled  to  sell  the  mansion  of 
the  Faubourg  Poissonniere,  and  the  money  was  shared 

I  between  the  heirs.     My  grandfather  bought  a  house  in 


the  Rue  Neuve  Saint-Jean  (now  the  Rue  du  Chateau 
d'Eau),  and  settled  there  with  his  family.  His  fortune 
was,  of  course,  considerably  smaller  than  his  father's, 
but  he  nevertheless  lived  comfortably  enough  on  his 
income  and  private  means  from  1778  to  1789. 


Before  they  met  on  the  scaffold,  my  grandfather 
was  twice  in  presence  of  Louis  XVI.  These  two 
meetings  occurred  at  the  beginning  of  the  year  1789. 
The  impoverished  state  of  the  funds  had  for  a  consider- 
able time  prevented  the  payment  of  the  sums  due  to 
Charles  Henri  Sanson  ;  and  as  he  had  hitherto  lived  in 
somewhat  expensive  style,  he  found  himself  in  serious 
pecuniary  difficulties.  In  a  petition  which  he  sent  to  the 
King,  he  explained  his  embarrassed  position,  and  he  was 
summoned  to  Versailles  a  few  days  afterwards.  Louis 
received  him  in  his  private  apartments.  The  interview 
was  short,  but  my  grandfather  remembered  every  detail 
of  it.  The  King  was  standing  near  a  window  which 
opened  on  the  park.  Charles  Henri,  intimidated  by  the 
prestige  of  royalty,  dared  advance  no  further  than  the 
threshold,  so  that  the  few  words  they  spoke  were 
exchanged  at  some  distance.  Louis  wore  a  lilac  coat 
embroidered  with  gold,  short  breeches  and  pumps  ;  the 
blue  and  red  ribbons  of  the  order  of  Saint-Louis  hung 
across  his  white  satin  waistcoat.  A  lace  collar  and  frill 
was  partly  covered  by  a  loose  cravat,  which  showed  the 
prominent  muscles  of  the  neck.    The  King  was  of  strong 


but  common  build.  His  hair  was  powdered  and  curled, 
and  was  tied  with  a  ribbon  at  the  back  of  the  neck. 

'  You  have  sent  in  a  claim  for  the  sums  that  are  due 
to  you,'  said  he,  without  turning  round  or  looking  at  my 
grandfather.  *  I  have  ordered  that  your  accounts  be 
examined  and  settled  without  delay ;  but  the  State  is 
poor  for  the  present,  and  your  claim  is  for  1 36,000  livres, 
I  believe  t  * 

'  I  thank  your  Majesty  with  as  much  gratitude  as 
respect,'  answered  Charles  Henri  Sanson ;  *  but  I 
beseech  your  Majesty  to  remember  that  my  debts  have 
so  considerably  increased  that  my  creditors  will  not  wait 
any  longer,  and  that  they  threaten  my  liberty.' 

At  these  words  the  King  turned  round  and  cast  a 
rapid  glance  at  my  grandfather.  *  Wait  a  moment,'  said 
he;  *  I  must  see  to  this  directly.' 

He  rang  a  bell  which  was  within  his  reach.  An 
officer  appeared. 

*  Monsieur  de  Villedeuil,'  said  the  King,  *  fetch  me  a 
safe-conduct,  and  direct  it  to  the  names  I  will  tell 

The  paper  was  procured,  and  the  King,  who  had  an 
excellent  memory,  dictated  the  names  of  my  grandfather 
which  he  had  seen  on  the  petition.  This  curious  safe- 
conduct,  which  I  still  possess,  is  couched  in  the  following 

*  By  order  of  the  Kmg. 

*  His  Majesty,  being  desirous  of  giving  M.  Charles 
Henri  Sanson  the  means  of  attending  to  his  occupations. 


has  given  him  a  safe-conduct  for  a  space  of  three  months, 
during  which  his  Majesty  orders  his  creditors  to  take  no 
proceedings  against  him  ;  to  all  solicitors,  police  officers,  or 
others  not  to  arrest  or  molest  him  in  any  way ;  to  all 
gaolers  of  prisons  not  to  receive  him  ;  and  if,  in  spite  of 
the  said  prohibition,  he  be  imprisoned,  his  Majesty  orders 
that  he  be  immediately  set  free.  His  Majesty  also  orders 
that  the  present  safe-conduct  be  only  available  after  it  has 
been  registered  at  the  office  of  the  Gardes  du  Commerce. 
'  Delivered  at  Versailles  on  the  nineteenth  of  April, 
seventeen  hundred  and  eighty-nine. 

*  Louis. 
^  Laurent  de  VilledeidV 

The  King  signed  the  document  and  handed  it  to  my 
grandfather,  who  took  it  and  respectfully  bent  his  knee. 
His  liberty  was  protected  by  the  man  whose  life  he  was 
soon  to  take. 

As  he  retired,  the  Queen  and  Madame  Elisabeth 
were  announced,  and  swept  past  him.  He  was  thus  in 
presence  on  the  same  day  of  the  three  royal  persons 
who  subsequently  fell  under  his  knife. 




Towards  the  end  of  the  same  year  (1789)  the 
question  of  penal  reform  was  raised  in  the  great 
National  Assembly.  In  the  month  of  October  Doctor 
Guillotin,  deputy  of  the  ticrs-etat  of  Paris,  presented  a 
law  by  which  capital  punishment  was  to  be  inflicted  in  a 
uniform  manner,  without  distinction  of  classes  ;  and  this 
new  mode  of  punishment  was  decapitation,  considered 
as  the  safest  and  most  humane.  This  motion,  which 
at  first  was  adjourned,  was  presented  again  by  Doctor 
Guillotin,  and  discussed  on  December  i.  The  first 
part  of  the  proposed  law  was  adopted  with  enthu- 
siasm ;  but  it  went  otherwise  with  decapitation,  of  which 
the  definite  sanction  Avas  put  off  for  two  years,  because 
of  the  experiments  made  in  view  of  finding  the  best 
means  of  inflicting  it.  I  shall  refer  hereafter  to  this 
search,  and  relate  how  it  ended  by  the  selection  of  the 
instrument  of  execution  now  in  use. 

At  length  the  Assembly  completed  the  grand  work 
which  it  had  commenced,  by  the  declaration  of  the  rights 
of  man  ;  and  this  was  for  my  grandfather  an  opportunity 
for  a  manifestation  which  I  cannot  pass  without  notice. 


The  reader  doubtless  remembers  his  defence  in  the  extra- 
ordinary action  brought  against  him  by  the  Marchioness 
de  X after  their  supper  at  a  country  inn.  This  de- 
fence showed  that  my  grandfather  possessed  an  apprecia- 
tion of  his  office  which  habit  and  domestic  education  alone 
could  explain.  Cruel  tests  eventually  modified  these 
ideas  ;  but,  it  must  be  admitted,  Charles  Henri  Sanson 
was  convinced  of  the  legitimacy  of  his  functions  and  of 
the  injustice  of  the  prejudice  which  cast  discredit  upon 
them.  He  therefore  sought  with  characteristic  energy  and 
obstinacy  all  that  could  contribute  to  his  rehabilitation. 

The  great  movement  of  1789,  which  removed  so 
many  injustices,  appeared  to  him  an  auspicious  time  for 
the  vindication  of  his  rights  ;  and  just  as,  in  1776,  he 
had  taken  advantage  of  the  action  brought  against  him 
by  the  Marchioness  to  claim  the  privilege  of  hereditary 
nobility,  as  first  officer  of  a  sovereign  court,  in  the  same 
way,  when  the  National  Assembly  appointed  the  privi- 
leges of  the  citizens  who  were  to  enjoy  political  rights, 
he  lost  no  time  in  asking  for  himself  and  his  colleagues 
the  title  of  active  citizen. 

In  its  sitting  of  December  24,  1789,  the  National 
Assembly  passed  a  decree  which,  as  far  as  civic  capacity 
was  concerned,  principally  aimed  at  the  religious 
question,  for  it  particularly  stipulated,  in  favour  of  non- 
Catholics,  for  their  right  of  election  and  also  admission 
to  all  civil  or  military  offices.  The  last  article  alone  was 
broad  ;  it  set  forth  that  no  opposition  could  be  allowed 
against  the  eligibility  of  any  citizen  unless  the  motive 
of  exclusion  were  mentioned  in  constitutional  decrees. 


This  was  a  de  facto  recognition  of  my  grandfather's  pre- 
tensions, for  no  constitutional  decree  deprived  him  of  civil 
rights.  We  shall  see  in  another  chapter  that  my  father 
was  not  satisfied  and  sought  a  more  definite  recognition 
of  his  claims. 

But  I  have  yet  to  relate  a  curious  affair  which  took 
place  a  few  days  after  the  sitting  of  the  Assembly  I  have 
just  mentioned.  My  grandfather  had  let  part  of  his 
house.  Among  his  tenants  was  a  man  of  the  name  of 
Roze,  a  printer,  who  published  various  writings  on 
the  questions  of  the  time.  Public  excitement  was  run- 
ning high.  Roze  belonged  to  the  moderate  party, 
who  went  no  further  than  a  constitutional  monarchy, 
gradual  reforms,  and  a  progressive  movement  accom- 
plished without  violence.  This  was  enough  to  expose 
him  to  the  attacks  of  the  demagogues.  Rozd,  who  was 
very  caustic,  answered  these  onslaughts  ;  and  a  polemic 
ensued  which  attracted  general  attention  to  the  reac- 
tionary printer.  A  general  cry  of  anger  was  raised 
against  him  in  the  press  ;  but,  curiously  enough,  the 
papers  affected  to  speak  of  my  grandfather  as  the  owner 
of  the  printing  establishment,  and  said  little  of  Roze. 
They  doubtless  wished,  by  such  unfair  aspersions,  to 
discredit  the  claims  he  had  shortly  before  advanced 
before  the  National  Assembly.  I  cannot  do  better  to 
explain  the  plot,  for  it  was  nothing  less,  than  give  a  few 
extracts  from  the  papers  of  the  day. 

*  Revolutions  of  Paris,'  by  Prudhomme.   No.  22,  p.  27  : 

*  It  has  just  been  discovered  that  the  aristocrats  have 
private  presses.     And  where  do  you  think  they  have  es- 


tablished  them  ?  At  Sanson's — in  the  executioner's  house. 
The  district  delegates  of  the  Capucins  of  the  Chaussee 
d'AntIn  have  visited  the  premises  and  found  the  presses 
working  for  the  aristocracy.  You  may  judge,  citizens, 
by  the  connection  which  exists  between  the  aristocrats 
and  honest  M.  Sanson  of  the  advantage  they  would  derive 
from  his  talents  if  they  were  the  strongest.' 

The  presses  had  not  been  discovered  in  my  grand- 
father's house,  but  in  an  adjoining  building,  belonging 
to  the  premises. 

'  Courrier  de  Paris,'  by  M.  Gorsas,  citizen  of  Paris  : 

*A  great  deal  was  said  concerning  the  execu- 
tioner of  Paris  in  the  last  sittings  of  the  National 
Assembly.  While  his  eligibility  was  being  discussed, 
he  was  seeking  the  means  of  becoming  eligible.  He  had 
in  his  house  the  presses  used  to  print  all  the  abominable 
libels  circulated  in  the  provinces,  to  incite  to  rebellion 
and  murder.  It  was  in  the  ugly  and  dark  Rue  Saint- 
Jean,  in  the  disgusting  house  of  the  executioner,  that 
meetings  of  aristocrats  took  place  ;  it  was  from  this 
impure  source  that  came  all  the  incendiary  writings 
circulated  under  the  seal  of  the  National  Assembly. 
Who  were  the  authors  of  these  writings  ?  We  know 
not ;  but  we  repeat,  they  were  circulated  under  the  seal 
of  the  National  Assembly. 

*  The  presses  have  been  taken  away,  and  the  honoured 
executioner  has  been  arrested  ;  he  is  now  in  the  Prison 
de  la  Force.  It  is  said,  however,  that  he  will  get 
out  of  the  scrape  ;  he  has  powerful  friends,  v.ho  will 
prove    that    his    arrest    was   a   crime,   with    as    much 


eloquence  as  they  proved  to  the  Assembly  that  he  is 

The  '  Spy  of  Paris  and  of  the  Provinces,'  or  '  Most 
Secret  News  of  the  Day,'  printed  by  Guillaume,  junior : 

*  The  executioner  was  interrogated  yesterday.  His 
answers  are  anything  but  satisfactory  with  regard  to  the 
serious  conspiracy  which  was  being  arranged  in  his  house. 
It  was  there  that  were  held  nocturnal  meetings  presided 
over  by  aristocrats,  who  were  not  ashamed  to  associate 
with  the  man  who,  sooner  or  later,  must  be  com- 
pelled by  his  profession  to  wreak  vengeance  on  their  heads 
for  the  misfortunes  they  are  preparing  for  the  nation.  It 
was  in  Sanson's  house  that  were  printed  all  the  libels 
intended  to  incite  the  people  to  rebellion.  This  aristo- 
cratic agent  maintains  that  his  premises  being  too  large, 
he  had  let  a  part  of  them ;  the  aristocratic  landlord 
did  not  know  his  tenants.  The  second  answer  is  not  so 
good  as  the  first.  Let  us  not  lose  courage ;  we  shall 
hear  of  something  more  in  a  few  days.' 

'Assemblee  Nationale,'  sixty-first  sitting,  by  M.  de 
Beaulieu : 

'  It  was  in  the  executioner's  house  that  were  the 
presses  that  printed  the  atrocious  libels  circulated  against 
the  Assemblee.  Secret  meetings  were  also  held,  it  is  said, 
in  this  singular  place  of  rendezvous. 

'  The  executioner  has  been  arrested  and  taken  to  the 
Chatelet ;  and  this  is  his  interrogatory,  such  as  it  has 
been  forwarded  to  us  : 

'  Question  :  "  But  why  did  you  thus  act,  especially  in 
the  present  circumstances  i* — Because  I  wished  to  give  the 
VOL.  I.  Q 


money  earned  with  the  presses  to  the  poor. — Q. :  Your 
generosities  could  not  possibly  have  been  greatly  in- 
creased through  any  money  derivable  from  the  sale  of 
the  prints  ? — I  never  thought  of  making  profit  out  of 
it. — Q.  :  But  you  were  aware  that  was  being  done  in 
your  house  against  the  public  weal  i* — Not  knowing  what 
my  tenants  were  about,  I  think  I  have  compromised 
myself  in  no  way. — Q. :  Why  did  several  persons  run 
away  when  you  were  arrested  } — I  suppose  they  were  the 
masters  of  those  who  were  working. — Q. :  Did  you  know 
them  } — No. — Q. :  You  could  not  let  your  premises  with- 
out knowing  the  names  of  your  tenants."  ' 

The  '  Courrier  de  Paris,'  or  the  '  Publiciste  Francais,' 
a  political  paper,  free  and  impartial,  with  this  motto, 
*  Nee  Icedere  nee  adidaril  published  by  Descentis  and  a 
number  of  literary  men,  at  the  establishment  of  Madame 
Herissaut : 

No.  77 :  '  We  hitherto  distrusted  the  report  that 
the  conspirators  assembled  in  the  executioner's  house, 
but  we  this  moment  hear  that  M.  Sanson  has  been 
arrested  and  taken  to  the  Chatelet,  together  with  thirty 
persons  concerned  in  the  conspiracy.' 

No.  8 1  :  '  W>  are  assured  that  in  several  provincial 
towns  a  number  of  aristocrats,  following  the  example 
of  their  accomplices  of  Paris,  have  chosen  the  execu- 
tioner's abode  as  the  place  in  which  to  meet  together.  .  .  . 
It  is  even  said  that  some  of  the  executioners  who  thus 
lent  their  houses  have  been  arrested,  together  with  some 
of  the  men  who  conspired  with  them,  and  are  being 
brought  to  Paris.' 


'  Revolutions  of  France  and  Brabant,'  by  Camille 
Desmoullns,  pp.  306  and  307  : 

'The  great  wits  of  the  "green  faction"  have  just 
pubh'shed  the  prospectus  of  a  lyric  journal,  in  which 
they  propose  to  turn  into  vaudevilles  the  decrees  of  the 
Assembly,  &c.  It  is  asserted  that  the  journal  in  question 
is  to  be  the  amusing  record  of  the  songs  sung  some 
time  ago  by  the  aristocrats  around  the  executioner's 
table.  Either  out  of  spite  against  the  "  Lanterne  "  and 
M.  Guillotin,  or  because  so  many  visits  flattered  him, 
M.  Sanson  fed  his  company  very  well.' 

This  last  diatribe  was  the  most  dangerous  of  all, 
because  it  was  based  on  a  semblance  of  truth.  It 
was,  in  fact,  true  that  my  grandfather,  according  to  the 
traditional  custom  of  our  family,  entertained  many 
people  at  supper ;  but  such  gatherings  had  nothing  to 
do  with  politics,  and  the  aristocrats  would  not  have 
honoured  us  with  their  presence.  If  Roze  had  occa- 
sionally been  invited,  it  was  because  he  was  our  tenant. 
As  to  the  so-called  vaudevilles  composed  by  the  latter, 
Roze  did  not  write  them  against  the  Assembly,  but  in 
mockery  of  the  violent  measures  which  extreme  parties 
were  already  proposing.  Moreover  Roze  was  not  the 
i  only  man  who  used  light  poetry  to  turn  public  affairs 
and  public  men  into  ridicule.  Doctor  Guillotin's  motion 
on  the  unity  of  capital  punishments  was  laughed  at  in 
more  than  one  song  composed  in  his  honour. 

My  grandfather  could  not,  of  course,  allow  such 
direct   attacks   to    pass    unchallenged.      He    therefore 



resolved  to  refer  all  the  libellous  articles  written  against 
him  to  the  police  tribunal  of  the  Hotel- de-Ville. 

More  fortunate  than  in  1776,  he  found  an  advocate 
who  undertook  to  support  his  case.  This  advocate  was 
a  worthy  man  named  Maton  de  la  Varenne.  He 
espoused  the  executioner's  interests  with  much  kindness, 
and  henceforth  he  was  a  friend  of  the  family.  The  case 
was  called  on  January  16,  1790,  but  it  was  put  off  until 
the  27th  of  the  same  month. 

All  the  delinquents  appeared,  with  the  exception  of 
Gorsas.  My  grandfather  had  no  difficulty  in  showing 
that  he  had  never  been  arrested,  and  that  the  presses 
belonged  to  his  tenant  M.  Roze ;  and  M.  Maton  de  la 
Varenne  proved  that  the  writings  of  the  latter  contained 
nothing  treasonable,  since  those  which  had  been  seized 
were  returned  to  him  on  the  following  day  with  an 
authorisation  to  continue  his  publications.  It  may  be 
interesting  to  the  reader  to  see  a  few  extracts  of  M. 
Maton's  speech,  which  my  grandfather  caused  to  be 
printed  at  the  time,  and  of  which  I  have  several  copies 
in  my  possession.  It  is  a  curious  sample  of  the  some- 
what emphatic  eloquence  of  the  time.  These  quotations, 
in  any  case,  are  better  than  my  poor  prose. 

The  following  is  the  exordium  of  the  plea  : 

*  Gentlemen, — If  the  advocate,  as  the  interpreter  of 
the  laws,  were  not  passionless  as  the  laws  themselves ;  ifij 
prej  udices,  the  monstrous  offspring  of  misled  imagination,' 
could  disarm  his  courage  ;  if  he  only  assisted  men  of  j 
rank  ;  if  he  made  any  exception  in  the  choice  of  his 
clients,  you  would  not  see  me  now  before  you,  supporting! 


the  plea  of  the  executioner.  But,  gentlemen,  what 
particularly  honours  our  office  is  the  protection  which 
we  accord  to  the  weak,  to  the  oppressed,  to  the  widow 
and  the  orphan.  Any  consideration  that  could  prevent 
us  from  doing  our  duty  would  be  a  crime.  Un- 
precedented defamation,  atrocious  calumny,  infamous 
libels — such  are  the  weapons  which  a  few  audacious 
journalists  have  not  been  ashamed  to  use  against  the 
honest  citizen  on  whose  behalf  I  now  appeal  to  your 
sense  of  justice. 

'  In  the  course  of  your  sitting  of  the  i6th  of  the 
present  month,  we  had  the  honour  to  read  to  you 
the  different  libels  by  which  my  client  is  represented  as 
one  of  the  leaders  of  a  body  of  aristocrats,  and  of 
infamous  conspiracies  tending  to  prevent  the  happy 
regeneration  which  is  now  in  course  of  accomplishment. 
You  have  seen  how  his  house  was  designated  as  the 
infamous  refuge  wherein  the  enemies  of  the  nation  assem- 
bled in  order  to  plot  against  the  country.  You  have  had 
copies  of  interrogatories  which  never  took  place,  and  of 
the  confessions  he  was  falsely  reported  to  have  made. 
No  doubt,  gentlemen,  you  were  filled  with  indignation 
when  you  perceived  how  malice  could  lead  astray  a 
number  of  writers  whose  talent  might  be  useful  to 
their  fellow-countrymen  if  they  used  it  to  point  out  their 
privileges  and  rights,  to  enlighten  the  masses,  to  instruct 
kings  and  depositaries  of  authority.  Be  good  enough  to 
listen  again  to  the  reading  of  these  licentious  pamphlets  ; 
you  will  see  that  defamation  and  calumny  could  not 
go   further,   and  you  will  feel  how  necessary   it   is  to 


promptly  repress  utterances  which  endanger  the  individual 
safety  of  my  client/  (Here  M.  Maton  de  la  Varenne  read 
the  articles,  and  resumed.)  '  I  ask  you,  gentlemen,  and  I 
ask  MM.  Prudhomme,  Gorsas,  De  Beaulieu,  Descentis, 
and  Desmoulins,  whether  libel  can  pour  out  its  poison  with 
greater  fury.  When  one  reads  such  atrocities,  one's  blood 
kindles.  Has  not,  after  this,  my  client  the  right  to 
demand  redress  ?  To  question  such  a  right,  gentle- 
men, would  be  an  impeachment  of  your  sense  of  justice. 
"  Calumny,"  says  M.  Dareau  in  his  "  Treatise  on  Insult," 
"  is  a  poison  so  dangerous  to  society  that  it  should  never 
pass  unpunished."  The  vilest  crime  is  contained  in 
calumny.  An  author  celebrated  for  his  talents  and 
numerous  misfortunes  says  that  "  defamation  is  to  the 
mind  what  poisoning  is  to  the  body."  "  It  is,"  he  con- 
tinues, "  a  kind  of  attack  from  which  it  is  in  some  degree 
impossible  to  protect  oneself.  It  is  a  thousand  times 
easier  to  credit  an  assertion  which  destroys  the  honour 
of  a  citizen  than  to  introduce  a  deadly  substance  into  his 
body.  The  penalty  should  therefore  be  measured  out 
by  the  difficulty  which  is  found  in  protecting  oneself 
There  are  no  antidotes  against  calumny,  whereas  the 
effects  of  poison  may  be  met."  Further,  the  same  author 
expresses  himself  in  these  terms  :  "  All  that  is  not  contra- 
dicted is  accepted  as  true.  The  most  revolting  slander 
soon  acquires  the  force  of  truth ;  a  cry  is  soon  raised 
which  pronounces  the  condemnation  of  the  unfortunate 
victim."  The  consequence  of  what  I  have  just  said, 
gentlemen,  is  that  the  law  cannot  be  too  severe  against 
calumniators  and  libellers .  Of  all  injuries  that  can  be 


inflicted  upon  a  citizen,  calumny  is  assuredly  the  most 
atrocious,  since  it  springs  from  low  and  corrupt  motives  ; 
and  slander  has  before  this  met  with  condign  punish- 
ment. Written,  printed,  and  circulated  defamation  is  far 
more  deserving  of  punishment/ 

Here  the  orator  reviewed  all  the  authorities  in  his 
favour,  and  recalled  the  Draconian  edicts  of  1626  and  1686, 
so  rigorously  carried  out  in  the  case  of  the  unfortunate 
Larcher,  and  which  provided  that '  all  those  who  circulated 
libels  were  subject  to  the  penalty  of  death.'  M.  Maton  de 
la  Varenne  came  to  the  more  recent  laws  on  libel,  and 
finished  with  the  following  words : 

*  The  writings  whereof  my  client  complains  are  of  a 
nature  to  destroy  his  honour.  They  have  produced, 
and  produce  still,  deep  effects  in  the  provinces  and  in 
Paris.  Some  say  that,  feeling  that  he  could  not  show 
his  innocence,  he  blew  his  brains  out  in  prison,  and 
others  that  he  is  soon  to  be  hanged,  and  that  his  body 
is  to  be  cut  in  several  pieces,  and  nailed  to  the  gates 
of  the  town  ;  others,  again,  that  he  has  been  reprieved  in 
consequence  of  the  important  information  he  has  given 
concerning  the  enemies  of  the  Revolution.  He  therefore 
has  a  clear  right  to  an  apology  and  to  damages. 

'  You  have  heard,  gentlemen,  the  chief  reasons  I 
have  to  urge  in  the  present  case.  It  is  that  of  the 
public  ;  it  relates  to  the  individuality  of  the  citizen  I 
now  defend  and  to  his  family.  What  I  demand  on  his 
behalf  are  the  rights  of  man.  You  are  too  equitable  not 
to  compensate  him  for  the  injury  he  has  received. 
However  favourable  your  decision  may  be  to  him,  it 


cannot  entirely  dispel  the  prejudice  which  the  calumnies 
I  have  spoken  of  have  raised  against  him.  If  my 
client  could  repeat  to  you  the  sentiments  he  has  ex- 
pressed before  me,  if  I  were  allowed  to  make  here  his 
profession  of  faith,  to  describe  his  patriotism,  he  would 
tell  you,  gentlemen,  as  he  told  me  :  *'  What  have  I  done 
to  those  who  insult  me  without  justice  or  pity  in  the 
writings  to  which  I  am  compelled  to  call  your  attention  ? 
What  proof  can  they  furnish  of  the  atrocious  imputa- 
tions which  they  print  against  me  ?  What  interest  have 
they  in  defaming  an  honest  citizen,  who  is  sufficiently 
unhappy  at  having  to  discharge  functions  against  which 
his  sentiments  revolt  ?  My  dear  citizens,"  my  client 
would  add,  "  is  it  just  at  the  time  when  the  country  is 
coming  to  new  life,  when  the  odious  prejudice  which 
weighed  upon  me  is  passing  away,  when  the  nation  is 
restoring  to  me  my  rights  as  man  and  citizen,  that  I 
could  betray  you  ?  Far  from  taking  part  in  plots,  and 
participating  in  attempts,  of  which  the  mere  idea  fills 
me  with  horror,  I  call  down  shame  and  execration  upon 
the  perverse  men  who  try  to  overthrow  the  superb 
edifice  raised  by  the  fathers  of  the  country."  ' 

All  the  defendants,  with  the  exception  of  Gorsas, 
offered  to  retract  their  allegations.  MM.  Prudhomme, 
De  Beaulieu,  Descends,  and  Camille  Desmoulins  were 
condemned  to  insert  an  apology  in  the  earliest  issue 
of  their  papers,  and  they  were  warned  to  be  more  pru- 
dent in  the  future.  As  to  Gorsas,  he  was  sentenced  to 
a  fine  of  one  hundred  livres.  He  appealed  against  the 
sentence,  and  this  was  an  occasion  for  M.  Maton  de  la 


Varenne  to  make  another  speech,  which  I  can  quote  in 

extenso  : 

'  Gentlemen, — The  equitable  judgment  you  passed 
upon  M.  Gorsas  led  me  to  believe  that  he  would  rest 
satisfied,  and  thus  make  amends  for  an  act  which  fully 
deserved  your  severity.  It  appears  that  our  opinion  of 
him  was  too  favourable.  M.  Gorsas  now  appeals  against 
your  sentence.  Does  he,  then,  imagine  that  he  can 
quietly  libel  honest  men  because  he  thinks  they  cannot 
defend  themselves }  Does  he  not  know  that  all  tribu- 
nals are  open  to  all  people  without  distinction,  and  that 
the  authors  of  libels  meet  there  with  the  punishment  pro- 
vided for  the  enemies  of  the  public  welfare }  You  have 
seen,  gentlemen,  in  a  paper  called  the  "  Courrier  de  Paris 
dans  les  Provinces,"  that  M.  Gorsas  charges  my  client 
with  having  the  presses  "  in  which  are  printed  all  the 
abominable  libels  circulated  in  the  provinces  to  excite  to 
rebellion  and  murder."  You  have  seen  also  that  M. 
Gorsas  announced  the  arrest  and  imprisonment  of  the 
citizen  I  defend.  After  circulating  throughout  Europe 
calumnies  of  such  a  nature  against  a  man  who  is  well 
known  for  his  patriotism,  M.  Gorsas  has  the  audacity  to 
complain  of  the  just  sentence  passed  by  you.  By  hoping 
to  escape  the  punishment  he  so  richly  deserves,  he  insults 
your  principles,  your  wisdom,  and  the  law  represented 
by  you. 

'  Not  only  has  M.  Gorsas  circulated  false  accusations 
against  my  client ;  he  has  also  dared,  since  your  sentence, 
to  call  him  a  bribed  vagabond,  and  to  express  astonish- 
ment at  an  executioner  being  able  to  find  advocates  to 


defend  his  cause.  Does  he,  then,  wish  us  to  describe  his 
private  Hfe  ?  But,  gentlemen,  Sanson  is  too  indulgent  to 
follow  such  a  course.  Let  Gorsas  think  of  what  he  has 
done.  Let  him  fear  the  moment  when  I  may  be  compelled 
to  make  public  certain  acts  of  his.  Let  M.  Gorsas  know 
that  one  has  no  right  to  appear  before  a  court  of  justice 
when  one  leads  a  doubtful  life  and  professes  anti- 
patriotic  sentiments.  As  to  the  astonishment  expressed 
by  him  at  our  having  undertaken  to  defend  M.  Sanson, 
we  have  only  to  answer  that  all  men  are  born  equal  in 
rights ;  that  we  regard  as  the  noblest  task  that  of  de- 
fending the  oppressed,  whoever  they  may  be,  against 
the  oppressor ;  and  that  we  care  little  for  what  calumny 
and  vengeance  may  be  devised  against  us  for  doing 
our  duty. 

'  In  one  of  your  preceding  sittings  we  deplored  the 
dangerous  consequences  of  liberty  of  the  press.  How 
is  it,  gentlemen,  that  we  are  already  obliged  to  regret  a 
boon  which  removes  the  limits  assigned  by  an  odious 
despotism  to  human  knowledge }  Why  has  the  finest 
prerogative  of  a  free  people  become  an  instrument  of 
calumny  in  the  hands  of  a  few  men  }  Let  M.  Gorsas 
devote  his  talents  to  the  defence,  and  not  to  the  impeach- 
ment, of  honourable  men  ;  let  him  enlighten  opinions 
and  principles,  and  we  shall  be  the  first  to  admire  him. 
But,  gentlemen,  it  is  time  that  the  scandal  to  which  he 
has  given  rise  in  and  out  of  town  should  be  stopped  ; 
it  is  time  for  you  to  punish  a  fearful  libel.  My  cHent 
trusts  that  you  will  confirm  your  first  decision.  I  there- 
fore persist  in  my  conclusions.' 



The  judgment  was,  in  fact,  confirmed  ;  but  Gorsas, 
who  had  obtained  some  mitigation  of  his  sentence  by 
promising  an  immediate  apology,  behaved  in  the  most 
disgraceful  manner.  In  a  preceding  issue  he  had 
already  made  some  poor  jokes  on  the  action  in  which 
he  had  thought  fit  not  to  appear.  Under  the  heading  of 
'  Anecdote,'  he  wrote  : 

'Yesterday  a  very  singular  case  came  before  the 
Commune  ;  it  was  a  dispute  between  Sanson,  bourreau  of 
the  town  of  Paris,  and  a  number  of  literary  men.  We 
are  told  that  one  of  the  principal  points  of  the  action  is 
that  Sanson  objects  to  the  appellation  of  bourreau^ 
because  it  is  said  in  several  decisions  of  the  council 
that  he  is  to  be  termed  executioner  of  criminal  sentences. 
The  executioner  demanded,  among  other  things,  that  the 
word  botcrreait  should  be  left  out  of  the  Dictionary  of 
the  Academy. 

*  There  never  was  a  better  occasion  for  the  application 
of  the  words  :  Camifex  !  quoqiie,  nisi  caniificis  nomine,  hi 
appellandus  ? 

'  We  are  also  assured  that  the  executioner's  counsel 
said  that  a  bourreau  could  only  throw  light  on  his  case 
with  the  lantern  of  the  Rue  de  la  Vannerie.' 

It  will  be  remarked  that  Gorsas  did  not  inform  his 
readers  that  he  was  one  of  the  journalists  he  mentions, 
and  that  he  deceived  them  as  to  the  object  of  the  action 
brought  by  my  grandfather.  But  this  was  not  all.  Two 
days  after  his  second  condemnation,  he  made  an  ironical 
and    malicious    insinuation,    in   spite    of  his   promises. 


Speaking  of  the  unhappy  affairs  of  the  Marquis  de 
Favras,  which  had  just  been  brought  to  light,  he  said  : 

'  The  hearing  of  the  witnesses  on  behalf  of  the  ac- 
cused is  still  continued,  and  it  is  believed  that  the  public 
prosecutor  will  be  let  off  for  his  conclusions,  M.  le  Mar- 
quis de  Favras  for  a  good  fright,  and  "  my  co-citizen," 
Sanson,  bonrreau  of  Paris,  for  his  hopes.' 

If  I  have  related  at  some  length  this  dispute  with 
the  press,  it  is  because  much  importance  was  attached  to 
its  result  in  my  family,  and  I  may  add,  in  our  corpora- 
tion. Two  of  the  writers  who  libelled  my  grandfather, 
Gorsas  and  Camille  Desmoulins,soon  afterwards  met  their 
former  victim  on  the  scaffold.  Whether  they  remem- 
bered this  dispute  with  my  grandfather,  and  were  again 
disposed  to  say,  Carnifex  !  quo  que ^  nisi  carnificis  noinine, 
tu  appellandus  ?  I  cannot  say  ;  but  Gorsas  was  mistaken 
when,  in  the  last  paragraph  I  have  quoted,  he  alluded  to 
the  unfortunate  Favras.  It  is  his  execution  which  I  now 
have  to  describe. 




Three  great  trials  engrossed  the  public  mind  in  1790. 
They  were  those  of  Augeard,  the  farmer-general,  charged 
with  furnishing  the  Court  with  the  funds  with  which  the 
troops  of  the  Champ  de  Mars  had  been  bribed  ;  of 
the  Baron  de  Besenval,  colonel-general  of  the  Swiss 
Guards,  who  commanded  at  the  Champ  de  Mars  ;  and, 
lastly,  of  the  Marquis  de  Favras,  charged  with  having 
attempted  to  introduce  into  Paris  a  number  of  armed 
soldiers,  with  the  object  of  getting  rid  of  the  chiefs  0/ 
the  principal  administrations,  of  stealing  the  seals  of 
the  State,  and  of  taking  away  the  King  and  the  royal 
family  to  Peronne. 

MM.  Augeard  and  De  Besenval  were  acquitted  ; 
and  this  circumstance,  which  excited  much  irritation, 
rendered  the  position  of  the  Marquis  de  Favras  ex- 
tremely perilous. 

Thomas  Mahy,  Marquis  de  Favras,  was  born  at  Blois 
in  1745.  He  had  two  brothers,  the  Baron  Mahy  de 
Cormer^  and  M.  de  Chitenay.  He  entered  the  mus- 
keteers in  1760,  took  part  in  the  campaign  of  1761,  and 
became  lieutenant  of  the  Swiss   Guards   of  Monsieur, 


brother  of  the  King.  He  married  m  1774,  gave  up  his 
commission,  and  went  to  Vienna,  where  he  obtained  the 
recognition  of  his  wife  as  the  only  and  legitimate 
daughter  of  the  prince  of  Anhalt-Schaunburg.  Being 
of  a  very  adventurous  spirit,  he  went  to  Holland,  and 
commanded  a  legion  during  the  insurrection  against 
the  Statholder  in  1787. 

In  1789  he  was  a  man  of  forty-five  years  of  age, 
an  excellent  type  of  the  accomplished  gentilhomme,  and 
full  of  enthusiasm  and  yearning  for  hazardous  enter- 
prises. After  witnessing  the  revolutionary  scene  that 
took  place  at  Versailles,  he  devised  a  plan  for  the  libera- 
tion of  the  King  ;  and  he  sought  to  carry  it  out  with  more 
zeal  than  prudence.  If  his  plan  was  such  as  the  spy 
Bertrand  de  Molleville  reports  in  his  memoirs,  it  was 
altogether  impracticable.  The  main  object  of  this  plan 
was  to  assemble  an  army  of  30,000  royalists,  who  were 
to  be  enrolled  secretly.  Such  an  enterprise  demanded  a 
great  deal  of  money,  and  the  greatest  discretion.  M. 
de  Favras  took  much  trouble  to  procure  the  funds,  and 
communicated  his  plan  to  many  persons,  who,  in 
return,  bestowed  on  him  more  praise  than  money.  Very 
soon,  however,  three  recruits  who  were  in  his  pay.  Morel, 
Turcati,  and  Marquies,  denounced  him,  and  in  the  night 
of  December  25  the  Marquis  de  Favras  was  arrested  at 
his  residence  in  the  Place  Royale,  by  order  of  the 
National  Assembly. 

On  the  following  day  an  unknown  hand  denounced  a 
far  higher  personage  than  the  Marquis  de  Favras  as  the 
leader  of  the  conspiracy.     An  anonymous  paper  was  cir- 



culated  in  Paris  in  which  Monsieur,  brother  of  the  King, 
was  mentioned  as  being  the  soul  of  the  plot.  This 
created  such  a  sensation  that  the  Comte  de  Provence 
deemed  it  prudent  to  contradict  the  report  publicly.  He 
appeared  before  the  Commune  and  delivered  a  speech ' 
which  was  received  with  enthusiasm  ;  but  he  could  not 
and  did  not  exonerate  the  Marquis  de  Favras,  who  was 
arraigned  and  took  his  trial  on  February  18,  1790. 

As  the  prisoner  was  brought  forward  a  few  groans 
were  uttered  by  the  public  ;  and,  from  the  demeanour 
of  the  magistrates  and  the  disposition  of  the  public,  M. 
de  Favras  no  doubt  foresaw  that  he  was  doomed.  He 
nevertheless  retained  his  presence  of  mind,  and  defended 
himself  with  much  spirit.  There  can  be  no  doubt  that 
the  Marquis  did  conspire,  like  most  noblemen  of  the 
time ;  but  proofs  against  him  were  utterly  wanting,  and 
the  accused  easily  showed  that  sentence  could  not  be 
passed  upon  him  without  a  flagrant  breach  of  justice. 
The  judges,  however,  were  in  fear  of  their  lives,  and  the 
indulgence  they  had  shown  to  Besenval  and  Augeard 
was  the  cause  of  the  pitiless  treatment  they  inflicted 
upon  Favras. 

On  February  29  the  Chatelet  passed  sentence.  The 
Marquis  de  Favras  was  condemned  to  be  hanged,  after 
j  amende  honorable  before  the  portico  of  Notre  Dame. 
I  He  betrayed  no  emotion  ;  and  when  the  president  of  the 
!  court  told  him  that  his  sole  hope  was  in  the  assistance 
i  of  religion,  he  answered,  '  Pardon  me,  sir ;  I  have  also 
Ithe  consolation  which  I  find  in  my  conscience.' 

From  the  beginning  of  the  sitting  the  Chatelet  was 


surrounded  by  an  angry  crowd  which  loudly  called  for  the 
death  of  Favras.  While  the  sentence  was  being  read  to  the 
accused  the  executioner  was  directed  to  erect  a  gibbet  on 
the  Place  de  Greve.  Favras  therefore  left  the  court  only 
to  be  taken  straight  to  the  scaffold,  and  no  one  seemed 
conscious  of  the  terrible  precedent  which  was  thus  being 
estabhshed.  So  much  hurry  took  place  that  as  he  was 
about  to  enter  the  cart  my  grandfather  remembered  that 
he  had  not  executed  the  full  prescription  of  the  sentence, 
and  he  told  M.  de  Favras  that  he  must  undress.  The 
latter  did  not  answer ;  but  when  his  hands  were  untied, 
he  helped  the  assistants  to  take  off  his  clothes,  and  ap- 
peared in  the  cart  in  his  shirt,  and  with  naked  feet. 

Loud  cries  burst  from  the  crowd.  *  A  rope  around 
his  neck  ! '  was  the  universal  demand.  The  prisoner 
made  a  sign  to  Charles  Henri  Sanson  to  obey,  and  did  not 
even  shudder  when  he  felt  the  contact  of  the  hemp  which 
was  to  deprive  him  of  life.  He  held  a  taper  in  his  right 
hand.  The  cortege  moved  forward  with  the  greatest 
difficulty  through  the  dense  masses.  When  it  reached 
the  parvis  of  Notre  Dame  the  Marquis  was  made  to  kneel 
and  pronounce  the  formula  of  amende  honorable.  M. 
de  Favras  took  the  paper  from  the  hands  of  the  clerk, 
and,  after  reading  it  in  a  loud  and  distinct  voice,  he 
added : 

'  Ready  to  appear  before  God,  I  forgive  those  who 
have  accused  me.  I  die  innocent.  The  people  clamour 
for  my  death.  Since  a  victim  is  needed,  it  is  better  that 
I  should  die,  instead  of  some  other  innocent  man  whose 
courage  might  fail  him  in  the  face  of  undeserved  death. 


1  am  about  to  suffer  for  crimes  which  I  have  not  com- 

When  he  returned  to  the  cart  his  face  was  slightly  . 
pale,  but  he  retained  his  fortitude  to  the  last.  In 
reaching  the  Place  de  Greve  M.  de  Favras  asked  leave 
to  write  his  will  at  the  Hotel-de-Ville.  This  document 
was  published  a  few  days  after  his  death.  It  denounced 
no  one,  but  one  of  the  phrases  contained  an  awful  accu- 
sation against  a  person  described  by  historians  as  the 
Comte  de  Provence.  The  time  had  now  come  for  the 
performance  of  the  last  act  of  the  tragedy.  It  was 
dark,  and,  as  the  Greve  was  imperfectly  lighted, 
lanterns  had  been  provided  on  the  scaffold.  M.  do 
Favras  advanced  with  a  firm  step.  The  extraordinary 
courage  he  displayed  touched  some  among  the  howliiig" 
mob  ;  but  his  enemies  were  in  overwhelming  numbers, 
and  as  he  approached  the  ladder  a  man  cried  out ; 

*  Allons,  saute  Marquis  ! ' 

M.  de  Favras  took  no  notice  of  this  supreme  taunt ; 
he  ascended  the  ladder,  and  when  he  was  high  enough 
to  be  heard  by  the  crowd,  he  said,  raising  his  voice : 

*  Citizens,  I  die  innocent.     Pray  for  me  ! ' 

He  repeated  these  words  at  every  step,  and  when  he 
reached  the  top  of  the  ladder,  looking  up  to  the  execu- 
tioner's assistant,  who  was  sitting  astride  on  the  arm  of 
the  gibbet,  *  And  you,  do  your  duty,'  he  added. 

These  were  his  last  words.  They  had  scarcely  passed 
his  lips  when  his  body  was  swinging  in  the  air. 

VOL.  I. 




I  NOW  return  to  the  vindication  of  the  rights  of  citizen 
carried  before  the  National  Assembly  by  my  grand- 
father. His  petition  was  discussed,  as  I  said  before,  in 
the  sitting  of  December  23,  1789.  The  decision 
which  was  then  given  was,  in  my  own  estimation, 
quite  satisfactory.  But  my  grandfather  was  of  a 
different  opinion.  It  may  be  interesting  to  relate  what 
took  place  in  this  first  sitting  before  I  allude  to 
Charles  Henri  Sanson's  attempt  to  obtain  a  national 
recognition  of  his  rights. 

Among  the  members  who  espoused  the  cause  of 
the  executioner  was  M.  de  Clermont-Tonnerre,  who 
expressed  himself  in  the  following  terms  : 

*  Certain  professions  are  bad  or  good.  If  they  are 
bad,  the  country  should  suppress  them  ;  if  they  are 
good,  they  should  be  considered  so.  Among  these 
professions  there  are  two  which  I  do  not  like  to  mention 
in  a  breath ;  but  in  the  eyes  of  legislators,  nothing  but 
good  and  evil  should  be  separated.  I  speak  of  public 
executioners  and  actors. 

*I    wish  to  say  concerning    the  first    of  these  two 


professions  that  we  have  merely  to  react  against  preju- 
dice. When  a  soldier  is  condemned  to  death,  the  hand 
which  strikes  him  is  not  infamous.  All  that  is  ordered 
by  the  law  is  just.  It  orders  the  death  of  a  criminal ; 
the  executioner  obeys  the  law.  It  is  absurd  that  the 
law  should  say  to  him,  "  Do  this  ;  and  if  you  do  it,  you 
shall  be  covered  with  infamy." ' 

The  Abbe  Maury  dissented  from  this  view. 

'  The  exclusion  of  executioners  of  justice  is  not 
founded  on  a  prejudice,'  he  exclaimed.  '  Every  honest 
man  shudders  at  the  sight  of  the  one  who  murders  his 
fellow-creatures  in  cold  blood.  It  is  said  that  the  law 
requires  this  action ;  but  does  the  law  order  a  man  to 
be  an  executioner } ' 

A  pale,  sharp-featured  orator  ascended  the  tribune, 
and  pronounced  the  following  words  : 

^  It  can  never  be  said  in  this  Assembly  that  a  neces- 
sary function  of  the  law  can  be  branded  by  the  law. 
Such  a  law  must  be  changed.' 

The  last  speaker  was  Maximilien  Robespierre.  It  is 
worth  noting  that  neither  of  the  two  supporters  of  the 
executioner  dared  to  defend  him  without  accusing  the 
law.  The  law  and  the  office  are,  in  fact,  linked  to  each 
other,  and  it  is  impossible  to  denounce  the  one  without 
branding  the  other.  If  the  views  of  Robespierre  and 
Clermont-Tonnerre  had  been  adopted  by  the  Assembly, 
it  is  probable  that  the  bloody  scenes  of  the  Revolution 
would  have  been  averted  by  the  abolition  of  capital 
punishment.  It  is  also  curious  to  observe  that  this  great 
question  was   brought  before  the  National   Assembly. 


By  a  strange  contrast  which  shows  how  sudden  are  the 
fluctuations  of  the  human  mind,  the  abolition  of  capital 
punishment  had  no  more  ardent  advocates  than  Marat 
and  Robespierre. 

Charles  Henri  Sanson  now  presented  a  formal 
memorial  to  the  Assembly  ;  and  it  was  through  the 
medium  of  his  former  counsel,  M.  Maton  de  la  Varenne, 
that  he  urged  his  plea,  in  the  name  of  his  brother  Louis 
Cyr  Charlemagne  Sanson,  executioner  of  the  Prevote  de 
r Hotel,  as  well  as  on  behalf  of  his  provincial  confreres. 
This  memorial  I  cannot  pass  without  quotation,  inas- 
much as  it  is  altogether  forgotten  and  obsolete.  I  do 
not  share  the  opinions  therein  expressed,  but  it  may 
give  an  idea  of  the  view  taken  of  their  profession  by 
former  executioners : 

'  This  is  not  a  judicial  memorial,  but  the  grievance 
of  a  number  of  men  branded  with  infamy,  and  who  only 
live  to  suffer  the  humiliations,  the  shame,  and  the 
opprobrium  deserved  by  crime  only  ;  this  is  the  com- 
plaint of  men,  unhappily  indispensable,  who  came  to 
lament,  before  the  fathers  of  the  country,  over  the 
injustice  of  their  co-citizens,  and  to  claim  the  undeniable 
rights  which  nature  and  law  had  bestowed  upon  them  ;  it 
is  also  a  respectful  remonstrance  to  the  august  Assembly 
of  representatives  of  the  nation,  and  a  request  for  the 
proper  interpretation  of  the  decree  of  December  24 

'  The  question  is  not,  as  has  been  said  by  an  obscure 
pamphleteer  whose  object  it  is  to  calumniate  the  mem- 
bers of  the  National  Assembly,  their  decrees,  and  the 


public,  whether  the  executioners  of  criminal  sentences 
shall  sit  beside  the  mayors,  or  shall  have  the  rank  of 
lieutenant-general  of  the  national  guard  in  the  different 
towns  of  the  kingdom.  What  should  be  ascertained  is, 
whether  the  executioners  are  eligible,  if  they  have  the 
right  to  sit  in  assemblies ;  in  short,  if  they  are  to  enjoy 
the  privileges  of  citizens.  The  question  is  not  doubtful, 
except  to  weak  men  whose  judgment  is  influenced  by 

*  Executioners  are  officially  nominated  to  their  func- 
tions ;  they  hold  their  office  from  the  hands  of  the 
king  ;  their  commissions,  like  those  of  officers,  are  only 
to  be  obtained  on  a  favourable  account  of  the  candidates 
being  presented  and  approved  of. 

'  A  few  persons  childishly  believe  that  the  commission 
of  executioner  is  thrown  at  the  candidate's  feet ;  that  it 
is  gratuitously  delivered  ;  and  that  the  executioner  elect 
takes  the  oath  on  his  knees.  Hence  they  infer  that 
his  profession  is  infamous. 

*  No  one  will  attempt  to  deny  that  this  opinion  springs 
from  a  popular  mistake,  when  it  is  the  fact  that  the  exe- 
cutioner receives  his  commission  from  hand  to  hand ;  that 
the  cost  of  purchase  is  considerable  (the  commission  of 
executioner  in  Paris  costs  six  thousand  and  forty-eight 
livres)  ;  that  he  takes  the  oath  standing,  like  any  other 
official ;  and  that  he  is  appointed  on  the  advice  of  the 
public  prosecutor. 

*  There  is  assuredly  no  difference  between  other  com- 
missions and  that  of  the  executioner  so  far  as  formalities 
of  reception  are  concerned.     The  prejudice  of  which  he 


is  a  victim  has  been  strengthened  by  dint  of  time,  and 
he  is  regarded  with  contempt  when  it  is  too  late  for  him 
to  adopt  another  profession. 

'  Among  the  IsraeHtes  the  plaintiff  always  carried 
out  the  judgment  given  in  his  favour.  If  a  murderer 
was  to  be  put  to  death,  the  family  of  the  victim, 
young  men  chosen  by  the  prince,  and  even  the  people 
vied  for  the  honour  of  accomplishing  the  mission  of 
executioner,  because  the  avenger  of  a  crime  was  re- 
garded as  a  benefactor  of  society. 

'  To  this  custom,  which  cannot  be  styled  barbarous 
without  doing  wrong  to  the  humane  and  equitable 
people  who  retained  it,  another  succeeded,  which  proves 
that  the  Ancients  saw  no  dishonour  in  the  act  of  putting 
a  criminal  to  death.  The  judges  themselves  carried  out 
their  own  sentences.  The  custom  also  was  to  allow 
accusers  to  carry  out  sentences  passed  on  the  accused. 
If  this  custom  was  abolished  in  the  prosperous  days  of 
the  Roman  republic,  it  was  because  the  executioner, 
impelled  by  feelings  of  revenge,  abused  his  privilege. 

'  In  Germany,  before  the  creation  of  the  office  of  exe- 
cutioner, the  duty  devolved  on  the  youngest  magistrate 
on  the  bench.  In  a  few  towns  of  the  empire  where 
this  custom  was  not  adopted,  the  last  comer,  the  most 
recently  married  inhabitant,  discharged  the  functions  of 
executioner.  These  customs  are  transmitted  to  us  by 
Adrian  Beyer,  of  Frankfort,  who  informs  us  that  in 
Germany  the  office  of  e:j^ecutioner  of  criminal  justice 
is  highly  prized,  that  the  emoluments  are  considerable, 
and  that  the  holder  is  invested  with  titles. 


'  Even  in  France  the  functions  of  executioner  have 
not  at  all  times  been  regarded  as  degrading  for  whoever 
discharges  them.  Denisart,  in  his  "  Memento  of  Juris- 
prudence— V.  Executioner,"  mentions  an  account  fur- 
nished by  the  Land  Administration  in  141 7,  in  which  it 
is  stated  that  forty-five  sous  parisis  were  paid  to  Etienne 
Lebre,  styled  master  of  the  high  justice  of  the  King  our 

*  Let  it  not  be  imagined,  however,  that  the  execu- 
tioners who  indite  the  present  petition  wish  to  be  con- 
sidered as  the  equals  of  magistrates  and  as  influential 
officials.  They  have  no  such  pretension.  But  there  is  a 
vast  difference  between  honouring  the  profession  and 
discrediting  it. 

*  What  would  society  become,  of  what  use  would  be 
judges,  if  an  active  and  legitimate  power  did  not  carry 
out  the  judgments  given  in  satisfaction  of  the  outrages 
against  citizens  protected  by  the  law }  If  the  punish- 
ment of  the  culprit  is  a  disgrace  for  him  who  inflicts  it, 
the  magistrates  who  have  passed  sentence,  the  clerk  who 
has  written  the  judgment,  the  public  prosecutor,  and  the 
criminal  lieutenant  must  also  have  their  share  of  the 
disgrace.  But  these  officers  do  not  incur  disgrace  ;  far 
from  this,  they  consider  themselves  honoured  by  their 
functions.  Why,  then,  should  the  man  who  is  the  last 
participator  in  the  infliction  of  punishment,  who  hates 
the  crime  he  punishes,  be  disgraced  by  the  discharge 
o^  functions  that  are  the  complement  of  those  of  a; 
judge  } 

*  A  ruffian  sets  fire  to  a  citizen's  house,  dips  his  hands 


in  his  neighbour's  or  his  father's  blood,  or  conspires 
against  his  country  ;  you  are  informed  of  his  crimes,  you 
demand  his  death,  you  go  to  see  him  die,  and  yet  you 
will  not  recognise  as  a  citizen,  and  you  persist  in  con- 
sidering as  infamous,  the  official  who  inflicts  upon  the 
miscreant  a  punishment  which  you  have  called  for  !  .  .  . 
Frenchmen,  be  just  and  logical !  Confess  that  crime  must 
remain  unpunished,  or  that  an  executioner  is  needed  to 
punish  it.  Confess  that  neither  the  magistrate  nor  the 
executioner,  but  the  culprit  alone,  is  guilty  of  violating 
the  laws  of  nature  ;  that  without  this  just  and  legitimate 
crusade  against  crime  society  must  be  continually 
molested.  Confess  also  that  it  has  been  unjust  to 
extend  shame  attached  to  crime  to  the  officer  who 
punishes  it. 

*  By  what  singular  misapprehension,  also,  is  the  execu- 
tioner of  criminal  judgments  discredited,  while  in  a 
regiment  soldiers  who  inflict  capital  punishment  are  in 
no  wise  disgraced  for  so  doing  t  Is  not  the  case 
identical  on  both  sides  t  Is  not  a  culprit  punished  in 
both  cases  t  It  is  a  strange  contradiction  indeed  to 
contest  the  citizenship  of  a  man  who  carries  out  the 
sentences  of  civil  tribunals,  and  to  recognise  as  citizens 
those  who  carry  out  capital  sentences  passed  by  a  council 
of  war ! 

*  Not  only  is  it  against  the  spirit  of  the  law  and  reason 
to  consider  executioners  as  deserving  of  public  execration  ; 
they  cannot  be  denied  the  quahty  of  citizen  without  also 
denying  the  least  contestable  social  rights.  Execu- 
tioners pay,  as  the  other  subjects  of  the  King,  all  public 


and  local  taxes ;  they  furnish  the  holy  bread  in  their 
parishes,  and  they  are  registered  as  members  of  the 
national  guard.  Why  should  they  be  deprived  of  the 
advantages  enjoyed  by  other  citizens,  since  they  are 
compelled  to  bear  their  share  of  the  public  expenditure  ? 
Fatal  power  of  prejudice  among  a  great,  humane,  and 
generous  nation ! 

'  The  consequence  of  all  that  has  just  been  stated  for 
the  information  of  the  Assembly,  is  that  it  is  unjust  to 
contest  the  civil  rights  of  the  executioners ;  that  they 
have  a  right  to  attend  the  meetings  of  citizens,  and  that 
they  are  eligible  for  situations  such  as  they  may  be 
thought  fit  to  hold.  It  only  remains  for  us  to  see 
whether  the  decree  of  December  24,  1789,  has  admitted 
our  claims  and  clearly  decided  that  executioners  are 

*  The  first  thought  that  occurs  to  prejudiced  people 
after  reading  this  decree  is  that  it  does  not  mention  the 
case  of  executioners  ;  that  the  settlement  of  the  question 
raised  as  to  the  claims  of  their  profession  is  avoided  ; 
that  they  remain  under  the  stigma  of  prejudice ;  that 
the  task  of  carrying  out  criminal  judgments  is  regarded 
as  infamous ;  and  lastly,  that  after  enacting  that  no  other 
reasons  for  exclusion  are  maintainable  against  the  eligi- 
bility of  any  citizen  than  those  resulting  from  the  con- 
stitutional decrees,  the  quality  of  citizens  is  not  frankly 
conceded  to    executioners.      As   a   consequence    it   is 
I  imagined  that  executioners   are  unfit  for  election  and 
!  cannot  occupy  civil  or   military   posts.     This  opinion, 
I  although  it  may  perhaps  be  contrary  to  the  spirit  of  the 


law,  is  not  devoid  of  reason ;  for,  in  order  to  fix  irrevocably 
the  fate  of  a  number  of  men  unjustly  visited  with  public 
reprobation,  the  National  Assembly  might  have  decreed 
the  eligibility  of  every  Frenchman  or  naturalised  French- 
man. This  manner  of  expressing  the  spirit  of  the  decree 
could  not  but  have  given  full  satisfaction  to  the  exe- 

'  A  constitutional  law  should  be  clear  and  precise  ;  it 
should  be  couched  in  clear  language,  and  should  only 
admit  of  one  interpretation.  The  executioners  are  con- 
vinced that  it  was  not  the  intention  of  the  Assembly  to 
deprive  them  of  their  rights  as  citizens.  If  they  now  ask 
for  a  definite  interpretation  of  the  law,  it  is  because  they 
are  constantly  told,  throughout  the  kingdom,  "  that  the 
National  Assembly,  when  it  decided  on  the  advantages  to 
be  conceded  to  citizens,  never  intended  to  include  them." 

'  It  may  be  possible  that  executioners  will  not  be  ap- 
pointed to  public  duties  immediately  after  the  interpret- 
ation they  ask  for ;  but  it  will  at  least  remain  decreed 
that  they  are  citizens  ;  they  will  be  enabled  to  enter 
assemblies  ;  the  prejudice  by  which  they  are  considered 
infamous  will  disappear  by  efflux  of  time,  and  society 
will  no  longer  be  deprived  of  their  co-operation  and 
patriotism,  and  of  the  example  of  their  virtues. 

*  The  petition  of  the  executioners  will  doubtless 
appear  ridiculous  and  preposterous  to  those  who  are 
governed  by  public  opinion,  and  who  cannot  discard  old 
customs  and  prejudices  ;  but  when  the  nation  is  recovering 
its  freedom,  when  all  privileges  are  being  destroyed,  when 
equity  is  becoming  supreme,  prejudices  should  be  de- 


iiounced.  They  cannot  be  just,  since  they  are  in  contra- 
diction to  the  law ;  and  why  should  the  office  of  execu- 
tioner be  considered  infamous  by  public  opinion  since 
the  law  does  not  regard  it  as  such?  Let  men  reform 
their  customs ;  let  them  learn  to  think  for  themselves ; 
and  then  the  profession  which  has  at  all  times  wounded 
their  sensibilities  and  appeared  to  them  contrary  to 
humanity  will  no  longer  seem  to  them  to  be  degrading. 

'  How  many,  in  a  class  of  men  now  calumniated  by  the 
cowards  who  attack  them  because  they  think  they  are 
without  friends — how  many  among  these  men  have 
deserved  the  esteem  and  respect  of  their  fellow-citizens  ! 
Not  a  few  old  men  of  the  town  of  Rennes  can  still  re- 
member the  virtue  and  kindness  of  Jacques  Ganier,  who 
died  some  thirty  years  ago,  after  discharging  the 
functions  of  executioner  during  many  years.  He  gave 
to  the  poor  all  that  was  not  strictly  necessary  to  himself. 
His  death  was  to  them  a  public  calamity,  and  for  a  long 
time  his  grave  was  visited  by  grateful  friends.  The 
numerous  services  rendered  by  other  executioners  are  well 
known.  They  gave,  and  give  still,  gratuitous  assistance 
to  citizens  of  all  ranks,  and  their  knowledge  of  chirur- 
gery,  medicine,  and  botany  has  been  of  invaluable  use. 
Would  it  be  just  to  exclude  from  society  men  who  are 
often  its  benefactors  } 

*  We  now  have  to  protest  against  the  denomination  of 
bourreatt  which  is  frequently  given  to  executioners.^     A 

'  The  origin  of  the  word  bourreau,  by  which  the  executioner  of  high  justice 
is  frequently  designated,  is  found  in  1260.  The  name  originated  from  a 
clerk  named  Borel,  who  obtained  the  fief  of  Bellemcombre  on  condition  that 


decree  of  the  Parliament  of  Rouen,  dated  November  i6, 
1 68 1,  is  couched  in  the  following  terms  : 

' "  Persons  are  forbidden  to  call  executioners  bourreau, 
under  penalty  of  a  fine  of  fifty  livres,  twenty-five  of 
which  shall  belong  to  the  King,  and  the  remainder  to  the 
executioner  thus  described." 

'A  decision  given  by  the  Parliament  of  Paris,  in 
1767,  in  favour  of  Joseph  Doublot,  executioner  of  Blois, 
forbids  all  persons  to  call  the  said  Doublot  bourreau, 
under  penalty  of  a  fine  of  100  livres. 

'  Another  decision  of  the  Parliament  of  Rouen  enacts 
the  same  penalty  in  favour  of  Ferey  and  Jouenne,  exe- 
cutioners of  Rouen,  and  adds  that  the  latter  shall  be 
allowed,  together  with  their  families,  to  enter  places  of 
recreation  and  amusement. 

'  These  decisions  were  confirmed  by  the  King  in  1787. 
The  Assembly  should  follow  the  example. 

'  Having  demonstrated  the  legitimacy  of  their  pro- 
fession and  the  injustice  of  the  denomination  under 
which  they  are  commonly  designated,  the  executioners 
ask  the  representatives  of  the  nation :  i.  To  add  the 
following  clause  to  the  third  part  of  their  decree  of 
December  24,  1 789  :  "  Decrees  also  that  no  other  reasons 

he  should  hang  the  thieves  of  the  district.  But  as  he  was  a  priest,  and  as 
the  Church  '  mentioned  in  its  prayers  that  it  did  not  like  blood, '  he  paid  a 
layman  to  discharge  his  functions.  The  King  furnished  him  with  provisions 
throughout  the  year  in  consequence  of  his  function,  which  he  was  supposed 
to  discharge  himself.  It  became  the  custom  to  call  Richard  Borel  le  Borel, 
and  to  describe  as  Boreaux  all  those  who  put  criminals  to  death.  The 
orthography  of  the  name  was  altered  and  became  bourreau  or  bourreaux. 
The  denomination  was  not  then  intended  as  an  insult,  but  it  bore  a  con- 
temptuous signification  in  the  i6th  century. — Note  of  the  Memorial. 


of  exclusion  than  those  contained  in  constitutional  de- 
crees can  be  used  against  the  eligibility  of  any  French- 
man," unless  the  Assembly  should  prefer  to  declare  that 
it  considers  executioners  as  citizens ;  2.  To  order  the 
enforcement  of  the  foregoing  decisions  regarding  the  use 
of  the  word  botirreaii ;  and  to  add  such  penalties  as  the 
Assembly  may  think  proper.  By  so  doing  the  Legis- 
lature will  restore  to  society  a  number  of  men  who  have 
never  been  unworthy  of  public  consideration. 
'Signed,         C.  H.  SANSON. 

'  L.  C  C.  Sanson. 

'  Acting  on  behalf  of  all  their  colleagues 
throughout  the  kingdom. 

'Maton  de  la  Varenne, 

Strange  to  say,  this  petition  found  many  apologists 
in  the  press.  The  *  Fidele  Observateur,'  the  *  Journal 
General  de  la  Police  et  des  Tribunaux,'  and  Marat's  paper, 
'  L'Ami  du  Peuple,'  took  up  the  cause  of  executioners. 
The  Assembly,  however,  did  not  come  to  a  decision  with 
regard  to  their  claim.  Charles  Henri  Sanson  was  fain  to 
content  himself  with  the  original  form  of  the  decree, 
which,  in  my  opinion,  was  sufficiently  satisfactory.  In 
the  sitting  of  December  24,  Robespierre  had  said  very 
judiciously  :  '  I  do  not  think  a  special  law  is  necessary  ; 
those  who  are  not  excluded  are  admitted.'  Besides,  the 
time  was  drawing  near  when  the  rehabilitation  sought 
by  my  grandfather  and  his  colleagues  was  to  become  a 


kind  of  apotheosis,  and  to  surpass  all  their  most  sanguine 
expectations.  Charles  Henri  Sanson  was  about  to 
receive  official  congratulations,  popular  ovations — and, 
in  fact,  to  become  one  of  the  essential  functionaries  of 
the  State. 





Doctor  Guillotin  pursued  with  much  perseverance 
the  task  he  had  undertaken  to  accomplish.  After  ob- 
taining the  sanction  of  the  Assembly  for  his  motion 
demanding  equality  of  punishment  in  cases  of  capital 
sentences^  he  again  drew  attention  to  those  of  his  other 
motions  which  had  been  adjourned.  These  were,  it 
may  be  remembered,  to  the  effect  that  crime  should  be 
considered  as  wholly  personal ;  that  the  disgrace  of 
punishment  should  not  extend  to  the  families  of  cul- 
prits ;  that  confiscation  should  be  abolished  ;  that  the 
bodies  of  executed  criminals  should  be  delivered  to  their 
relations  if  asked  for  ;  and,  if  not,  that  they  should  be 
buried  without  any  mention  on  the  register  of  the  kind 
of  death  they  had  suffered. 

All  these  reforms  were  favourably  regarded  by  the 
Assembly.  But  Guillotin's  special  object  was  to  obtain 
the  adoption  of  another  innovation.  Disgusted  as  he 
was  at  the  sight  of  the  gibbet,  which  exhibited  a  corpse 
for  hours  before  the  mob,  he  determined  to  substitute 
•  for  all  former  modes  a  punishment  by  which  suffering 
!  would  be  mitigated.     He  saw  no  better  means  for  the 


furtherance  of  his  object  than  decapitation.  It  had 
hitherto  been  reserved  for  a  privileged  class,  and,  in  all 
respects,  it  was  a  more  manly  and  natural  way  of  inflict- 
ing death.  But  then  the  executioner's  sword  had  often 
failed  to  accomplish  its  work  ;  the  hand  was  apt  to 
tremble,  and  machinery  only  could  give  a  guarantee  of 
unswerving  precision.  Guillotin's  purpose  was,  then,  to 
discover  the  best  decapitating  machine  ;  and  although 
the  search  he  undertook  was  novel  work  for  a  man  who 
had  hitherto  endeavoured  to  save  life  rather  than  to 
devise  means  of  destroying  it,  he  pursued  it  with  un- 
tiring zeal.  In  order  to  gain  time,  he  merely  suggested 
the  recognition  of  his  principle  in  the  following  article  : 

'  In  every  case  of  capital  punishment  the  mode  of 
execution  shall  be  the  same.  The  criminal  shall  be  de- 
capitated by  means  of  a  mechanical  contrivance.' 

This  proposal  was  made  exactly  three  years  before 
the  '  mechanical  contrivance '  received  the  baptism  of 
royal  blood.  It  was  sent  to  the  Committee  of  Seven, 
and  only  became  law  in  1791,  when  decapitation  was 
definitively  adopted  ;  but  the  process  by  which  decapita- 
tion was  to  take  place  was  not  indicated.  This  omission 
caused  much  alarm  to  my  grandfather  ;  for  he  foresaw 
that,  unless  mechanical  means  were  devised,  the  heaviest 
responsibility  would  rest  with  him.  He  sent  a  memorial 
to  the  minister  of  justice,  in  which  he  enumerated  the 
difificulties  of  decapitation  with  the  sword,  the  necessity 
of  firmness  and  courage  not  to  be  found  in  every 
culprit,  and  the  impossibility  of  numerous  executions,  in 
consequence  of  the  bluntness  of  swords  frequently  used. 


*  There  can  be  no  doubt,'  he  said,  in  his  expostulation, 
'that  when  I  shall  have  to  deal  consecutively  with  several 
criminals,  the  terror  excited  by  the  sight  of  blood  must 
lead  to  deplorable  consequences.  The  other  culprits 
must  lose  the  firmness  which  is  absolutely  needed  in 
such  executions.'  Charles  Henri  Sanson  ended  by  in- 
sisting on  the  urgent  necessity  of  a  machine  which 
would  keep  the  sufferer's  body  in  a  horizontal  position, 
and  ensure  prompter  and'safer  operation  than  could  be 
expected  of  hand-work. 

This  was  precisely  what  Dr.  Guillotin  was  seek- 
ing, and  he  visited  my  grandfather  to  ask  his  advice. 
But  their  long  conversations  led  to  no  satisfactory  re- 
sults. They  examined  in  vain  everything  which,  in  the 
past  and  in  other  countries,  could  realise  the  idea  of  the 
machine.  Three  German  engravings  by  Pontz,  Alde- 
greder,  and  Lucus  von  Cranach,  and  an  Italian  picture 
dated  1555,  furnished  a  few  models,  but  none  was 
perfect.  The  Italian  engraving  represented  an  in- 
strument of  execution  called  the  Mannaia,  which  had 
sometimes  been  used  in  Italy,  particularly  in  Genoa,  at 
the  time  of  the  execution  of  Giustiniani  the  famous  con- 
spirator. The  apparatus  was  erected  upon  a  scaffold  ; 
the  axe  was  placed  between  two  perpendicular  slip 
boards  :  the  culprit  was  kneeling,  with  his  head  on  a 
block,  and  the  executioner  was  holding  a  rope  which 
prevented  the  axe  from  falling.  The  German  en- 
gravings were  almost  identical  with  this. 

Minute  information  was  also   collected    concerning 
j  divers   punishments   inflicted   in    Persia,   and    later  in 
VOL.  I.  S 


Scotland  ;  but  these  were  inferior  varieties  of  the 
Mannaia.  Decapitation  by  machinery  had  even  taken 
place  in  France,  Marshal  de  Montmorency  having  been 
executed  at  Toulouse,  in  1631,  by  means  of  a  sliding  axe. 

Nothing  better  than  this  last  process  could  be 
discovered,  and  it  would  most  likely  have  been  adopted 
had  not  my  grandfather  persistently  objected  that  the 
attitude  of  the  culprit  was  a  point  of  great  importance, 
which  could  not  be  overlooked.  It  was  almost  as  diffi- 
cult, he  said,  for  a  fainting  man  to  remain  on  his  knees 
as  to  stand  on  his  feet.  Hanging  him,  or  tying  him  on 
the  wheel,  was  possible  ;  but  it  was  hopeless  to  expect 
that  he  would,  except  in  rare  cases,  remain  motionless 
while  the  death-blow  was  being  inflicted.  jj 

By  a  fortunate  chance,  Charles  Henri  Sanson  had 
become  acquainted  with  a  German  engineer  of  the  name 
of  Schmidt.  This  man  was  a  manufacturer  of  musical 
instruments  ;  he  was  very  ingenious  in  his  craft,  and 
was  a  passionate  lover  of  music.  He  had  sold  some  in- 
struments to  my  grandfather ;  and,  as  the  latter  himself 
played  the  violin,  Schmidt  frequently  joined  him  in  a 
duet,  Charles  Henri  playing  the  violin  and  the  German 
playing  the  clavecin.^  One  evening,  after  playing  an 
air  of  Iphigenie  en  Aulide,  Charles  Henri  spoke  to  his 
companion  of  his  perplexity.  Schmidt  hesitated  for  a 
moment,  and  then  traced  a  few  rapid  lines  on  a  piece  of 
paper,  which  he  handed  to  my  grandfather.  It  zvas  the 

Charles  Henri  Sanson  looked  at  the  drawing  with 

^  A  primitive  form  of  the  piano. 


unfeigned  surprise  and  satisfaction.  Schmidt  told  him 
that  he  had  long  doubted  whether  it  was  proper  for  him 
to  have  anything  to  do  with  instruments  which  were 
designed  to  kill,  but  that,  seeing  his  friend's  perplexity, 
he  could  not  resist  the  temptation  of  assisting  him. 

It  was  thus  that  the  guillotine  came  into  the  world, 
as  it  were,  in  the  midst  of  a  concert. 

Charles  Henri  Sanson  informed  Guillotin  of  the 
discovery.  The  doctor  was  beside  himself  with  joy,  for 
he  had  pursued  his  hobby  with  extraordinary  vigour 
and  enthusiasm.  Certain  biographers  have  erroneously 
asserted  that  Guillotin  regretted  his  action  in  the 
matter,  and  doubted  the  reality  of  the  service  he  had 
rendered  to  the  country.  Up  to  the  last  moment  of  his 
life  Guillotin  remained  convinced  that  he  had  accom- 
plished a  duty,  and  had  initiated  a  great  reform.  If_ 
the  people  gave  the  name  of  guillotine  to  the  new  in- 
strument of  execution — although,  I  need  hardly  repeat, 
the  doctor  was  not  the  real  inventor  of  it — it  was  simply 
"^n  act  of  justice ;  for  it  was  owing  to  his  efforts  that 
decapitation  and  the  machine  used  for  its  infliction  were 

He  described  the  new  apparatus  in  the  sitting  of 
April  31,  1791.  Carried  away  by  enthusiasm,  he  made 
use  of  expressions  which  excited  loud  laughter,  and  al- 
most imperilled  the  success  of  his  cause.  He  said 
that  the  culprit  would  only  feel  a  slight  freshness  on  the 
neck.  The  phrase  was  sufficiently  ingenious ;  but  when 
he  added,  *  With  this  machine  I  chop  yonr  head  off  in 
a  twiftklingy  and  you  do  not  suffer ^  the  Assembly  gave 

s  2 


way  to  irrepressible  laughter.  Howbeit,  the  legislators 
determined  to  abide  by  their  first  decision.  A  long 
correspondence  took  place  between  Guillotin,  M. 
Roederer,  procureur-general  of  the  Commune,  and  my 
grandfather.  The  Assembly  at  length  appointed  Dr. 
Antoine  Louis  to  enquire  into  the  new  mode  of  de- 

Louis  was  the  King's  physician,  anc^his  royal  patron 
heard  of  the  mission  he  had  to  discharge.'  "^The  dexterity j 
of  this  prince  as  a  locksmith  is- well  known.  He  wished) 
to  assist  Louis,  and  to  give  his  personal  attention"] 
to  a  matter  in  which,  he  said,  he  was  interested  as  aj 
sovereign.  The  King  and  his  physician  expressed  a] 
desire  to  examine  the  plan  of  the  machine  proposed  by] 
Guillotin.  The  latter  was  therefore  requested  by  Dr. 
Louis  to  come  to  the  Tuileries,  and  he  was  told  to  brinj 
my  grandfather  with  him. 

They  found  Dr.  Louis  in  his  closet.     After  a  fewj 
polite  words  had  been  exchanged  by  the  two  physician* 
Guillotin  showed  Louis  the  plan  of  the  machine  drawn] 
by  Schmidt,  to  which  my  grandfather  had  added  a  fewj 
explanations.     While  Louis  was  examining  it  with  great 
attention,  a  door  was  opened,  and  a  new  comer  appeared] 
in  the  closet.     Dr.  Louis,  who  was  seated,  immediateb 
rose.     The  stranger  looked  coldly  at  Dr.  Guillotin,  wh( 
bowed ;   and    abruptly   addressing   Louis,    he    said   ta] 
him : 

*  Well,  doctor,  what  do  you  think  of  it  t ' 

*  It  seems  to  me  perfect,'  answered  the  doctor  ;  '  and] 
fully  justifies   what   M.    Guillotin   told   me.     You  can] 


judge  for  yourself.'  And  he  handed  the  plan  to  the  last 
comer,  who  looked  at  it,  and  then  shook  his  head  doubt- 

'  The  knife  has  the  shape  of  a  crescent.  Do  you  think 
a  knife  thus  shaped  would  be  suitable  for  all  necks  .^ 
There  are  some  which  it  certainly  could  not  cut' 

Since  the  speaker's  entrance,  Charles  Henri  Sanson 
had  lost  neither  pne  of  his  words  nor  one  of  his  gestures. 
The  sound  of*  the  voice  showed  him  that  his  first  im- 
pression was  a  true  one  ;  the  King  was  again  before  him  ; 
but,  by  the  plain  costume  he  wore,  it  was  easy  to  see 
that  he  wished  to  remain  incognito.  Charles  Henri 
was  struck  by  his  remark,  and  looking  at  the  King's 
neck,  he  saw  that  its  proportions  were  just  those 
which  justified  the  royal  remark.  The  King  again 
spoke,  and  he  asked  in  a  low  voice,  '  Is  this  the  maji  ?' 

Doctor  Louis  answered  in  the  afiirmative. 

'  Ask  him  what  he  thinks  of  the  matter.' 

*  You  heard  this  gentleman's  observation,'  said  Louis  ; 
*  what  is  your  opinion  with  regard  to  the  shape  of  the 

*  The  gentleman  is  quite  right,'  answered  my  grand- 
father ;  '  the  knife  is  not  what  it  should  be.' 

The  King  smiled  with  an  air  of  satisfaction,  and 
taking  a  pen  which  lay  on  the  table,  he  rectified  the 
plan,  and  substituted  an  oblique  line  for  the  crescent. 

'  I  may  be  mistaken,  after  all,'  he  added ;  *  the 
two  shapes  should  be  tried  when  the  experiments  are 

He  then  rose  and  retired,  waving  his  hand.     Such 


was  the  King's  second  interview  with  my  grandfather. 
Their  next  official  meeting  was  to  take  place  on  January 
2 1  of  the  following  year. 

Five  days  after  this  conference,  that  is  on  March  7, 
Antoine  Louis  presented  his  report  to  the  Assembly,  in 
which  he  proposed  the  pure  and  simple  adoption  of  the 
machine,  such  as  it  had  been  sketched  by  Schmidt,  with 
the  alternative  of  one  or  the  other  knife.  On  March 
20  the  Assembly  passed  the  report,  and  Dr.  Louis  was 
requested  to  superintend  the  construction  of  the  first 
decapitating  machine.  The  work  was  done  by  a  car- 
penter named  Guidon,  who  charged  5,500  francs  for  it. 
When  the  guillotine  was  finished  my  grandfather  and 
two  of  his  brothers  went  to  the  prison  of  Bicetre  to 
make  experiments  on  three  corpses.  This  took  place  o 
April  17,  1792,  in  the  courtyard  of  the  prison,  in  the 
presence  of  Drs.  Antoine  Louis,  Phillippe  Pinel,  and 
Cabanis.  The  prisoners  eagerly  looked  on  from  the 

The  three  corpses  were  decapitated,  one  after  the 
other.  The  first  two  experiments  with  the  oblique  knife 
succeeded  ;  the  third,  with  the  knife  shaped  as  a  crescent, 
failed.     The  oblique  knife  was  therefore  adopted. 

A  week  afterwards  my  grandfather  had  occasion  t 
test  the  new  system  on  a  man  named  Pelletin,  sentence( 
to  death  for  theft  and  an  attempted  murder.  Som 
uneasiness  was  felt  with  regard  to  the  behaviour  of  th 
mob  at  the  sight  of  the  new  instrument  of  death,  as  th 
following  letter,  addressed  by  Roederer  to  La  Fayette 
sufficiently  shows  : — 

A  1 


*  Paris,  April  25,  1792. 

'  Sir, — The  new  mode  of  decapitation  must  certainly 
attract  a  considerable  number  of  spectators  to  the 
Greve,  and  it  is  necessary  to  take  special  measures  to 
prevent  any  attempt  to  destroy  the  machine.  I  there- 
fore think  it  indispensable  that  you  should  order  the 
gendarmes  who  are  to  attend  the  execution  to  remain 
until  the  machine  is  taken  away.' 

The  last  episode  of  the  history  of  the  wheel  may  be 
remembered.  Some  such  event,  it  was  feared,  might 
inaugurate  the  history  of  the  instrument  which  some 
already  called  lotnson  or  lotdsette,  from  the  name  of 
Dr.  Louis,  and  others  gicillotiney  from  the  name  of  Dr. 
Guillotin.  The  last  name  prevailed ;  but  no  disorder 
occurred.  The  execution  took  place,  and  fully  justified 
my  grandfather's  anticipations.  Pelletin  was  carried  to 
the  scaffold  in  a  fainting  fit,  and  it  would  have  been 
impossible  to  decapitate  him  with  the  sword.  The 
execution  was  a  complete  success. 

It  might  now  be  interesting  to  enquire  whether 
the  guillotine  is  really  the  least  cruel  mode  of  punish- 
ment, and  if,  therefore,  it  answered  the  humane  views  of 
its  inventors  ;  or  if,  as  some  anatomists  have  asserted, 
decapitation  is  followed  by  horrible,  and  in  some  way 
posthumous,  sufferings.  I  would  rather  adjourn  the  ex- 
amination of  this  important  question  until  the  time  when 
I  can  relate  my  personal  recollections,  and  give  the  ob- 
servations I  was  enabled  to  make  in  the  course  of  my 
professional  career.  We  are  now  close  upon  portentous 
events,  the  relation  of  which  must  not  be  deferred. 


CHAP    ER   XXV. 

THE   TRIBUNAL   OF  AUGUST  17,    1792. 

The  hour  is  now  at  hand  when  the  history_  of  the 
scaffold  and  the  history  of  France  are  to  be  blended  into 
one.  -In  a  few  days  the  despised  headsman  shall  become 
the  key  of  the  vault  of  the  social  edifice  which  is  being 
constructed.  Until  then  he  could  answer  to  those  who 
saluted  him  with  the  insulting  epithet  of  bozirrcan,  '  Why 
do  you  despise  me  if  you  do  not  despise  your  laws  }  * 
The  excitement  of  a  nation  now  gives  him  the  right 
to  exclaim :  '  It  seems  as  if  you  had  made  a  revolution 
only  to  give  me  work  ! ' 

The  grandson  of  the  Sanson  of  1793 — of  the  £'reat 
Sanson,  as  he  was  called — might  perhaps  discard  for  a 
moment  the  humility  which  he  has  hitherto  displayed ; 
but  let  the  reader  be  reassured.  In  pursuing  the  course 
of  my  narrative,  I  shall  not  trouble  him  with  my  per- 
sonal opinions.  I  propose  to  be  sparing  of  all  observa- 
tions concerning  politics,  and  to  relate  as  briefly  as 
possible  the  events  I  am  about  to  record.  I  will  soon 
give  up  the  pen  to  Charles  Henri  Sanson,  my  grand- 
father, and  quote  his  diary  exactly  as  he  wrote  it. 
This  record  begins  at  the  end  of  the  month  of  May, 

THE   TRIBUNAL   OF  AUGUST  17,  1792.  265 

some  six  weeks  after  the  erection  of  the  revolutionary 
tribunal,  and  is  continued  to  the  month  of  Venddmiaire 
of  the  year  III.  Written  as  it  is,  citrrente  calamo,  it  is 
the  most  accurate  diary  of  the  scaffold  which,  I  believe, 
can  be  found. 

But  nine  months  still  separate  us  from  the  day 
when  Charles  Henri  Sanson  began  to  work  in  earnest ; 
and  during  this  lapse  of  time  the  guillotine  was  not 
altogether  inactive.  The  Assembly  had  disappeared, 
and  the  King  was  abandoned  to  his  own  inspirations. 
On  August  20,  1792,  the  Tuileries  was  invaded,  and  the 
King  was  made  prisoner  and  incarcerated  in  the  Temple. 
A  revolutionary  tribunal  was  instituted.  This  tribunal, 
although  it  numbered  men  like  Fouquier-Tinville, 
used  the  guillotine  with  comparative  moderation.  It 
applied  severe  laws  with  severity ;  but  it  acted  with 
justice,  and  respected  the  forms  of  law.  It  had  chiefly 
to  deal  with  common  malefactors.  From  1771  to  1792 
the  number  of  raids  on  persons  and  property  considerably 
increased.  Paper  money,  which  was  of  recent  creation, 
excited  the  cupidity  of  forgers.  During  a  period  of 
seven  months,  fifteen  forgers  were  executed  on  the 
Place  de  Greve.  On  August  19,  1792,  one  Collot  was 
condemned  to  death  for  forgery,  and  the  guillotine 
was  erected  on  the  usual  spot  selected  for  executions. 
The  Place  de  Greve  was,  as  usual,  well  attended.  As  the 
cart,  in  which  were  Charles  Henri  Sanson  and  the 
culprit,  drove  up,  a  tremendous  clamour  greeted  their 
appearance,  and  my  grandfather  distinguished  a  cry  of 
*  To  the  Carrousel ! ' 


The  horse  continued  to  advance  ;  but  a  man  seized 
the  bridle  and  asked  the  driver  why  he  did  not  obey  the 
popular  order.  Charles  Henri  Sanson  interposed ; 
but  the  man  declared  that  the  will  of  the  Commune  was 
that  the  guillotine  should  henceforth  be  erected  opposite 
the  palace  of  the  last  King,  and  that  he  must  immediately 
transfer  his  tools  there. 

My  grandfather  replied  that  his  duty  was  to  carry 
out  the  orders  which  were  transmitted  to  him,  and  not 
to  meet  the  wishes  of  the  magistrates  before  they  were 
expressed.  But  the  clamour  became  more  vociferous, 
and  the  horse's  head  was  turned  in  the  direction  of  the 
Tuileries.  Charles  Henri  Sanson's  position  was  very 
perplexing.  He  asked,  and  at  length  obtained,  leave  to 
drive  up  to  the  H6tel-de-Ville  to  ask  for  instructions. 

After  some  hesitation  the  Procureur  of  the  Commune 
authorised  my  grandfather  to  act  according  to  the 
wishes  of  the  mob.  The  scaffold  was  taken  down  and 
transferred  to  the  Place  du  Carrousel ;  and  the  cart 
repaired  thither,  escorted  by  the  crowd. 

But  a  considerable  time  elapsed  before  the  guillotine 
could  be  erected  again ;  and  the  culprit,  who  had 
hitherto  been  calm,  began  to  struggle  violently.  As 
the  carpenters  had  gone  away,  the  people  helped  my 
grandfather  to  reconstruct  the  instrument  of  death. 
This  reconstruction,  however,  progressed  so  slowly  that 
night  came  on  before  it  was  finished,  and  my  grand- 
father, apprehending  desperate  resistance  on  the  part  of 
the  doomed  man,  requested  some  of  those  who  worked 
around  him   to   go   to   the  Commune  and   ask  for  an 

THE   TRIBUNAL   OF  AUGUST  17,  1792.  267 

adjournment  of  the  execution.  The  request  was  re- 
ceived with  jeers  of  anger  and  derision,  and  public 
irritation  became  ominously  threatening.  A  beardless 
young  man,  who  wore  the  red  cap,  came  forward, 
shrieking  that  my  grandfather  was  a  traitor,  and  that  he 
should  taste  of  the  guillotine  himself  unless  he  '  ope- 
rated '  without  more  ado. 

Charles  Henri  retorted  with  some  warmth  that  he 
could  not  execute  the  culprit  without  special  assist- 

*  Your  assistants  are  drunk !  *  exclaimed  the  young 
man.  *■  You  can  find  as  much  help  as  you  require  here. 
The  blood  of  aristocrats  cements  the  happiness  of  the 
nation,  and  there  is  not  one  man  in  the  crowd  who  is 
not  ready  to  lend  you  a  hand.' 

A  general  cry  of  assent  followed  these  words  ;  but 
the  circle  around  the  scaffold  became  wider,  and  it 
appeared  obvious  that  few  were  prepared  to  stand  by 
their  word.  My  grandfather  perceived  this,  and  has- 
tened to  prevent  the  first  speaker  from  retreating  by 
accepting  his  offer. 

The  culprit  was  led  to  the  steps  of  the  scaffold, 
which  he  refused  to  mount,  and  Charles  Henri  was 
obliged  to  take  him  in  his  arms  and  carry  him  up  to  the 
platform.  When  the  unfortunate  man  saw  the  dark 
outline  of  the  machine,  his  resistance  became  more 
desperate,  and  he  shrieked  for  mercy.  The  crowd  was 
now  silent.  The  improvised  executioner  did  not  budge, 
but  he  was  very  pale.  At  last,  after  a  final  struggle, 
the  culprit  was  strapped  to  the  plank,  but  his  contor- 


tions  were  so  violent  that  an  assistant  had  to  sit  upon 

Charles  Henri  Sanson  now  told  the  young  man  that 
he  could  not  furnish  a  better  proof  of  his  patriotism 
than  by  taking  a  leading  part  in  the  execution  ;  and  he 
put  in  his  hand  the  rope  which  communicated  with 
the  knife.  At  his  bidding  the  young  man  gave  a 
tug  ;  the  knife  fell,  and  the  head  rolled  in  the  basket. 

This  was  not  all ;  it  was  customary  to  show  the 
head  to  the  multitude  after  decapitation,  and  loud  cries 
reminded  my  grandfather  of  the  custom.  He  explained 
to  the  young  man  what  he  was  to  do,  at  the  same 
time  proposing  himself  to  do  the  horrible  duty.  But 
his  substitute  refused ;  he  took  the  head  by  the  hair, 
and  advanced  to  the  edge  of  the  scaffold  ;  but  as  he  was 
raising  his  arm  to  show  the  bloody  trophy,  he  staggered 
and  fell  back.  Charles  Heori  Sanson  came  to  his 
assistance,  thinking  that  he  was  fainting ;  but  he  dis- 
covered that  he  was  dead.  Violent  emotion  had 
brought  on  an  apoplectic  fit,  which  killed  him  instan- 

Such  was  the  first  execution  that  took  place  on  the 
Place  du  Carrousel.  Henceforth  this  place  was  the  scene 
of  every  execution. 

Defence,  in  those  stormy  times,  was  not  less  violent 
than  attack.  Royalist  writers  were  as  bitter  as  their 
adversaries  of  the  patriotic  party.  Two  journalists, 
Suleau  and  Durosoy,  became  especially  conspicuous  for 
the  vehemence  of  their  writings.  The  former  was  a 
man  of  action  as  well  as  a  writer,  and  he  had  fought  on 

THE   TRIBUNAL   OF  AUGUST  17,  1792.  269 

behalf  of  royalty  on  August  10.  He  was  identified  in 
the  street  by  Theroigne  de  Mericourt,  and  at  the  insti- 
gation of  that  sanguinary  amazon  he  was  massacred  by 
the  mob.  Durosoy's  end  was  not  less  tragic.  He  was 
executed,  and  died  with  the  greatest  firmness.  An 
officer  named  Collinot  d'Augremont  was  his  successor 
on  the  guillotine. 

On  August  29  Laporte,  superintendent  of  the  civil 
list,  paid  for  the  prodigalities  of  his  royal  master. 
Laporte  was  a  venerable  old  man,  and  his  death  caused 
profound  emotion  among  those  who  witnessed  it.  On 
the  31st  Sellier  and  Desperriers  were  sentenced  to 
death  for  issuing  forged  assignats,  and  beheaded  on  the 
same  day. 

The  pillory  had  not  followed  the  scaffold  to  the 
Place  du  Carrousel ;  it  remained  on  the  Greve.  On 
September  i  my  grandfather  had  to  deal  with  one  Jean 
Julien,  sentenced  to  twelve  years*  imprisonment  and  to 
public  exposure  in  the  pillory,  who  excitedly  protested 
that  he  was  innocent.  Hardly  was  he  chained  to  the 
pillory  than  he  exclaimed,  '  Vive  le  Roi!  Vive  la 
Reine  ! '  These  words  produced  the  greatest  excitement, 
and  Julien  would  certainly  have  been  massacred  but  for 
the  prompt  interference  of  the  police.  He  was  taken 
before  the  revoluntionary  tribunal,  sentenced  to  death, 
and  executed  on  the  following  day. 

No  execution  took  place  on  September  3. 

En  revanche,  there  was  a  wholesale  massacre,  which 
it  is  not  my  business  to  speak  of.  While  the  massacre 
was  taking  place,  the  revolutionary  tribunal  was  trying 


Major  Bachmann,  a  Swiss  officer.  The  howls  of  the 
victims  and  the  cries  of  the  slaughterers  could  be  heard, 
and  frequently  disturbed  the  audience.  When  the 
President  passed  sentence,  Major  Bachmann  ran  to  join 
his  friends  who  were  being  killed  ;  but  he  was  held  back 
and  reserved  for  the  scaffold,  on  which  he  suffered  the 
next  day. 

Old  Cazotte,  who,  thanks  to  his  daughter's  devotion, 
had  found  mercy  before  the  mock  tribunal  instituted  at 
I'Abbaye,  was  less  fortunate  with  the  judges  appointed 
by  law.  Cazotte  was  a  graceful  poet,  whose  mysticism 
sometimes  verged  on  prophecy.  One  evening,  in  the 
Marchioness  de  Vaudreuil's  drawing-room,  he  was  seized 
with  one  of  his  habitual  fits  of  sadness.  When  enquiries 
were  made  concerning  his  state  of  mind,  he  said  that 
although  he  was  awake  he  could  see,  as  in  a  dream, 
things  which  filled  him  with  terror ;  he  spoke  of  prisons 
and  executioners'  carts,  and  he  described  the  instrument 
of  death  which  was  to  be  invented  twenty  years  afterwards. 
He  added  that  he  could  see  most  of  those  who  were 
present  perishing  by  the  executioner's  hand. 

A  moment  of  silence  followed  this  strange  predic- 
tion ;  it  was  broken  by  Madame  de  Montmorency,  who 
said  laughing : 

'■  You  spoke  of  carts,  my  dear  Monsieur  Cazotte  ;  let 
me  hope  that  I  shall  be  allowed  to  go  to  the  scaffold  in 
my  own  carriage.' 

*■  Not  so,  Madame,'  answered  the  visionnaire,  *  for  it 
shall  be   the  last  privilege   accorded   to   the   King   of 

THE   TRIBUNAL   OF  AUGUST  17,  1792.  271 

France.  You  will  be  taken  to  the  scaffold  in  a  cart 
just  like  myself.' 

Cazotte's  singular  vision  was  fully  realised.  He  was 
arrested  on  August  25,  sentenced  to  death  and  exe- 

Executions  were  numerous  up  to  the  time  of  the 
King's  death  ;  but  the  number  was  considerably  greater 
afterwards.  The  emigrants  who  fought  in  the  ranks  of 
the  Prussian  army,  and  were  captured  on  the  battle-field, 
suffered  on  the  scaffold,  together  with  a  large  party  of 
ordinary  miscreants,  whose  names  it  is  not  necessary  to 
mention  here. 




The  King's  death  was  the  first  signal  for  the  struggle 
between  the  two  factions  which  predominated  in  the 
Convention.  The  Gironde  objected  to  the  death  of 
Louis  XVL  ;  but  the  influence  of  the  Montagne  pre- 
vailed, and  the  monarch's  appearance  on  the  scaffold 
was  the  prelude  to  a  series  of  wholesale  executions. 
The  people,  too,  was  so  infuriated  that  it  frequently  took 
the  law  into  its  own  hands.  Heads  carried  on  pikes 
were  often  seen  in  the  streets.  Was  the  people,  properly 
so  called,  wholly  responsible  for  this  cruelty.?  My 
grandfather  was  wont  to  tell  us  that  he  had  often  re- 
cognised gaol  birds  among  the  individuals  who  incited 
to  murder,  and  he  had  no  doubt  that  most  of  the  out- 
rages so  frequently  perpetrated  were  committed  at  the 
instigation  of  those  rufhans. 

Charles  Henri  Sanson  was  then  living  with  his  son 
(my  father),  who  was  twenty-seven  years  of  age ;  and 
his  style  of  life  was  so  quiet  and  secluded  that  on 
August  10  he  was  not  even  aware  that  the  Tuileries  had 
been  attacked  and  devastated  by  the  people.  On  that 
day  my  father  went  to  breakfast  with  his  uncle,  Louis  Cyr 


Charlemagne  Sanson.     I  cannot  do  better  than  allow 
him  to  describe  what  occurred  on  the  occasion. 

*  After  breakfast,'  he  writes,  '  I  had  opened  the  win- 
dow to  air  the  room.  I  looked  out  and  saw  a  crowd  in 
the  street,  but,  as  the  apartment  was  on  the  fourth  floor, 
I  could  not  see  distinctly  what  was  taking  place.  How- 
ever, I  espied  a  young  fellow  who  was  raising  in  the  air 
something  stuck  on  a  pole.  My  aunt,  who  was  also 
looking  out,  hastily  retreated,  exclaiming  : 

*  "  Good  heavens,  it  is  a  head  ! " 

'  This  exclamation  filled  us  with  fear,  and  we  felt  the 
more  anxious  to  know  what  had  happened.  But  before 
we  could  get  any  information  a  larger  crowd  rushed 
down  the  street  in  pursuit  of  a  young  man,  who,  as  we 
perceived,  was  a  Swiss  guard  of  the  Poissonni^re 

'  The  fugitive  had  a  good  start,  and  was  anxiously 
looking  about  for  a  means  of  escape.  I  confess  that 
both  myself  and  my  uncle  were  rather  rash ;  but  we 
could  not  resist  our  first  impulse  of  compassion.  I 
told  my  uncle  that  we  could  not  allow  a  man  to  be 
massacred  before  our  very  door ;  and,  in  spite  of  the 
advice  of  those  who  had  breakfasted  with  us,  we  hastily 
went  down  and  opened  the  door. 

'  "What  do  you  want  to  do  with  this  young  man .?" 
said  I  to  some  of  those  who  gave  chase. 

' "  But,  sir,"  answered  one,  "  the  Swiss  guards  are 
being  killed." 

*  "  For  what  reason  .?" 

'  "  Why,  don't  you  know  ?" 
VOL.  I.  T 


'  "  All  I  know  is  that  this  man  has  done  you  no  harm, 
and  that  you  want  to  murder  him." 

*  While  we  were  thus  parleying,  the  Switzer  had  re- 
treated behind  us.  Two  men  tried  to  seize  him,  but  I 
held  them  back  ;  my  uncle  pushed  the  fugitive  into  the 
hall,  and  I  was  enabled  to  shut  the  door  in  the  faces  of 
the  pursuers. 

'  The  house  was  situate  in  the  Rue  Beauregard,  and 
communicated  with  a  butcher's  shop  in  the  Rue  de 
Clery.  We  escaped  through  these  premises,  and  at  the 
soldier's  request  we  took  him  to  the  guard-house  of  the 
Bonne-Nouvelle  section,  which  was  then  the  Rue  de 
Bourbon-Villeneuve,  near  the  Cour  des  Miracles.  We 
then  returned  home,  escorted  by  twelve  armed  men,  who 
easily  dispersed  the  crowd  which  had  gathered  before 
our  house.  It  was  from  our  escort  that  we  heard  of  the 
events  which  had  taken  place  at  the  Tuileries  on  the 
same  morning. 

*  The  day  which  had  so  tragically  begun,  ended  with 
an  amusing  incident.  On  our  return,  we  found  one  of 
our  relatives,  who  had  just  come  from  the  country  to 
pass  a  few  days  in  Paris.  The  poor  man  was  so  frightened 
that  he  wanted  to  leave  Paris  without  delay.  But  when 
he  tried  to  depart,  he  found  that  the  gates  of  the  town 
had  just  been  closed,  and  that  no  one  could  leave  Pari& 
without  submitting  to  certain  formalities,  which  increased 
our  visitor's  apprehensions.  He  gave  way  to  the  most 
ludicrous  despair,  tore  his  hair,  cursed  his  own  imprudence, 
and  could  only  be  appeased  by  my  promising  to  provide 
for  him  a  means  of  escape   far  more  dangerous  than 


the  formalities  after  which  he  might  have  quietly  left 

'  I  was  acquainted  with  one  of  my  grandfather 
Jugier's  old  friends,  who  had  a  garden  which  extended 
beyond  the  precincts  of  the  town.  Our  timorous  friend 
effected  his  escape  by  this  opening,  previously  taking 
care  to  disguise  himself  as  a  gardener. 

'  Up  to  this  time  neither  I  nor  my  father  had 
attended  very  regularly  the  meetings  of  our  section,  and 
we  had  not  been  incorporated  in  the  National  Guard  ; 
but  on  the  following  day  (August  1 1)  two  delegates  of 
the  section  came  to  invite  us  to  attend,  and  we  were 
compelled  to  obey.  One  of  these  delegates  was  an  old 
schoolfellow  of  mine,  who  had  hitherto  been  in  ignorance 
of  my  origin,  and  I  was  in  fear  that  he  would  discard  me. 
Far  from  doing  so,  however,  he  strove  to  convince  me 
that  he  did  not  share  the  common  prejudice  with  regard 
to  my  family. 

*  This  first  meeting  of  the  Assembly  was  not  marked 
by  any  interesting  event ;  but  on  the  following  day  a 
deputation  of  twelve  members,  of  which  I  was  one,  was 
appointed  to  protest  against  the  intrusion  of  an  indivi- 
dual who  had  obtained  the  suffrages  of  the  inhabitants 
of  the  district  as  member  of  the  Commune  by  deceiving 

*  We  went  to  the  H6tel~de-Ville,  where  the  Commune 
was  sitting,  and  the  president  of  our  deputation,  a 
barrister  of  the  name  of  Jacob,  handed  to  the  secretary 
a  copy  of  the  resolution  of  our  section,  which  explained 
the  object  of  our  visit.     When  his  turn  came  to  support 

T  2 


this  resolution,  he  was  interrupted  by  Chaumette,  who 
said  that  he  as  well  as  Robespierre  knew  the  individual 
alluded  to,  that  they  had  seen  him  enter  the  carriage  in 
which  the  King,  the  Queen,  and  the  royal  family  had 
been  taken  to  the  Temple  prison,  and  that  this  was  a 
sufficient  proof  of  patriotism.  Chaumette  was  not 
content  with  impeaching  us  ;  he  also  spoke  of  our 
section  as  a  centre  of  aristocracy,  and  he  described  our 
deputation  as  a  shameful  cabal  against  a  virtuous 

*  While  this  discussion  was  going  on  I  was  placed  in  a 
dangerous  predicament.  Being  unable  to  find  room  in 
the  hall  with  my  colleagues,  I  sat  down  near  strangers, 
among  whom  were  some  of  the  professional  slaughterers 
who  were  constantly  in  quest  of  victims.  Chaumette 
had  hardly  finished  when  Robespierre  called  an  usher 
and  said  to  him  : 

*  *'  Tell  the  President  that  I  wish  to  speak.'* 

*  At  the  same  moment,  as  I  did  not  appear  to  belong 
to  the  deputation,  several  sinister-looking  men  eyed  me, 
and  one  of  them  said : 

* "  What  are  you  doing  here  }  I  suppose  you  are  one 
of  the  aristocrats  .'*  We'll  just  '  do '  for  you  as  we  did 
for  the  Swiss  soldiers." 

'  These  threatening  words  frightened  me,  and  I  con- 
fess that  I  could  not  refrain  from  showing  it.  I  never- 
theless answered  as  firmly  as  I  could  : 

*  "  Citizens,  you  have  a  curious  way  of  settling  ques- 
tions. You  had  better  learn  who  I  am  before  you  try 
to  murder  me." 


' "  Bah  !  "  exclaimed  another  man ;  "  we  should  never 
get  rid  of  these  ruffianly  aristocrats  if  we  listened  to 
what  they  say." 

'  I  looked  around,  sadly  perplexed,  and  was  fortunate 
enough  to  catch  the  eye  of  the  schoolfellow  I  have 
already  spoken  of  He  perceived  my  position,  and, 
coming  up  to  me,  he  said  that  I  was  wanted  by  the 
secretary  of  the  Commune.  We  were  allowed  to  go 
away  ;  I  re-entered  the  hall  by  another  door,  and  joined 
my  colleagues,  whose  fate,  whatever  it  might  be,  it  was 
my  duty  to  share. 

'Robespierre  was  speaking  when  I  entered.  He 
entirely  concurred  with  Chaumette,  so  that  he  seemed 
to  grant  us  our  lives  when  we  were  ignominiously 
dismissed  ;  and  we  had  the  greatest  difficulty  in  finding 
the  staircase  amidst  the  people  who  crowded  to  look 
at  us. 

'  When  we  emerged  from  the  H6tel-de-Ville  we  could 
no  longer  restrain  our  indignation  at  the  shameful 
manner  in  which  we  had  been  treated,  and  we  resolved 
to  go  immediately  to  our  section,  to  report  upon  what 
had  occurred.  The  section  was  sitting  when  we  arrived  ; 
and  hardly  had  our  president  described  the  result  of  our 
mission  than  the  meeting  rose  en  7nasse  asking  for 
revenge.  It  was  immediately  agreed  that  the  section 
should  be  called  to  arms,  and  every  one  prepared  for  the 

*We  had  four  pieces  of  cannon.  Our  artillerymen 
brought  them  out,  and  in  less  than  two  hours  over  two 
thousand   men   were   ready  to   attack   the   Commune, 


to  ask  for  redress  for  the  insult  inflicted  on  the 
delegates  of  the  section.  Every  man  was  at  his  post ; 
the  artillery  came  first,  and  the  soldiers  and  officers 
after ;  and  we  were  about  to  march  forward  when  four 
citizens,  sent  by  the  Commune  to  apologise  for  what  had 
occurred,  appeared.  We  listened  to  them  at  first  with 
some  attention ;  but  one  of  the  speakers  having  ex- 
pressed himself  in  somewhat  haughty  terms,  our  presi- 
dent interrupted  him,  and  spoke  severely  of  the  treat- 
ment our  deputation  had  received,  and  of  the  danger  to 
which  they  had  thereby  been  exposed.  The  delegates 
were  silent ;  they  at  length  asked  to  be  allowed  to 
report  to  the  Commune  what  they  had  heard  and  seen. 
This  was  agreed  to ;  but  it  was  stipulated  that  Chau- 
mette  and  Robespierre  should  publicly  retract,  on  the 
very  next  day,  and  in  the  presence  of  the  deputation, 
the  insulting  assertions  they  had  made.  The  delegates 
promised  that  it  should  be  so,  and  retired. 

^  The  promise  was  discharged  on  the  following  day. 
Our  deputation  returned  to  the  H6tel-de-Ville,  and,  in  the 
presence  of  nearly  twelve  hundred  persons  of  all  classes, 
Robespierre,  Chaumette,  and  the  President  of  the  Com- 
mune admitted  that  they  had  been  deceived  with  regard 
to  the  inhabitants  of  the  section  of  the  Northern  Suburb  ; 
that  they  had  since  ascertained  that  they  were  excellent 
patriots.  A  copy  of  the  report  of  the  sitting  was  at 
once  delivered  to  us,  and  we  peacefully  returned  to  our 
section,  which  was  awaiting  in  arms  the  result  of  this 
second  expedition.' 

I  have  thought  proper  to  quote  the  above  incidents 


just  as  my  father  related  them  in  order  to  show  what 
the  situation  of  Paris  was  when  the  sentence  on  the  un- 
fortunate Louis  XVL  was  pronounced.  It  would  have 
been  impossible  to  find  anywhere  else  a  more  complete 
state  of  anarchy  ;  for  what  condition  could  be  worse  than 
that  of  a  city  in  which  civil  war  was  so  imminent  between 
two  districts  armed  with  musket  and  cannon? 

When  the  election  of  officers  took  place,  my  father 
and  my  grandfather  were  elected  sergeants,  and  my  grand- 
uncle,  Charlemagne  Sanson,  corporal.  This  obliged 
them  to  take  a  more  active  part  than  they  might  have 
wished  in  the  political  manifestations  which  took  place 
during  this  strange  epoch.  A  short  time  had  elapsed 
since  these  grades  had  been  conferred  upon  them  when 
the  Convention  began  to  consider  the  fate  of  the  royal 
prisoner  of  the  Temple.  This  bloody  page  of  our 
history  has  been  so  often  expatiated  upon  that  it  needs 
no  repetition.  It  is  only  the  last  act  of  the  drama  which 
I  have  to  relate,  and  I  feel  the  task  is  sufficiently  heavy.  ^ 

It  was  on  December  11,  1792,  that  the  monarch 
appeared  before  the  Convention,  then  presided  over  by 
Barrere,  whose  cold  and  trenchant  eloquence  was  to 
exercise  a  decisive  influence  on  the  final  vote.  Sentence 
was  passed  on  January  17.  The  surprise  caused  by  the 
result  was  so  great  that  the  votes  were  counted  a  second 
time ;  but  on  the  following  day  it  was  ascertained 
beyond  doubt  that  the  sentence  passed  upon  Louis 
Capet  was  death. 

*  The  translator  has  suppressed  here,  as  elsewhere,  a  great  deal  of  irrele- 
vant matter. 


My  grandfather  heard  the  news  on  the  19th.  On  the 
20th  he  was  to  celebrate  the  twenty-ninth  anniversary  of 
his  marriage.  The  celebration  was  a  mournful  ®ne.  In 
the  evening  Charles  Henri  and  his  son  went  out.  They 
learned  that  the  King  had  asked  for  a  delay  of  three 
day«  to  prepare  himself  for  death,  and  that  the  petition 
had  been  refused  ;  and  Charles  Henri,  having  gone  as  far 
as  the  legislative  palace,  was  positively  assured  that  the 
only  favour  granted  to  the  King  of  France  was  a  final 
meeting  with  his  family  and  the  assistance  of  a  priest  of 
his  religion.  It  was  therefore  certain  that  the  execution 
had  been  appointed  for  the  following  day. 

My  grandfather  returned  home  in  a  melancholy  mood. 
He  found  an  order,  which  had  been  sent  to  him,  to 
erect  a  scaffold  and  to  expect  the  convict  at  eight  o'clock 
in  the  morning.  Other  papers  brought  during  his 
absence  were  letters  by  which  he  was  apprised  that 
measures  were  taken  to  save  the  King  during  his 
progress  from  the  Temple  to  the  Place  de  la  Revolution, 
and  that,  if  my  grandfather  offered  the  slightest  resist^ 
ance,  he  would  be  killed.  Other  letters  begged  and  did 
not  threaten.  He  was  asked  to  join  the  saviours  of  the 
victim,  and  to  delay  the  execution  as  much  as  possible 
so  as  to  give  time  for  a  number  of  resolute  men  to  break 
through  the  ranks  of  the  militia  and  carry  off  the 

This  last  means,  which  my  grandfather  regarded  as 
neither  impossible  nor  unlikely,  was  the  only  one  which 
left  him  a  ray  of  hope. 


On  the  following  day,  at  dawn,  my  grandfather  and 
my  father  were  roused  by  the  sound  of  the  drums  which 
were  calling  out  the  section,  each  district  having  to 
furnish  a  battalion  for  the  execution.  My  father  be- 
longed to  the  battalion  selected  in  our  neighbourhood 
for  the  unpleasant  duty.  He  was  not  sorry  for  it, 
because  it  enabled  him  to  share  with  his  father  the 
perils  of  the  day.  He  therefore  put  on  his  uniform  and 
went  out  with  Charles  Henri  Sanson,  who  was  supported 
by  Charlemagne  and  another  of  his  brothers.  At  this 
stage,  I  cannot  do  better  than  let  my  grandfather  speak 
for  himself  and  give  his  own  version  of  the  events  which 
followed : 

'■  The  sacrifice  is  accomplished  !  .  .  .  I  started  this 
morning  at  seven  o'clock,  after  embracing  my  poor  wife, 
whom  I  did  not  expect  to  see  again.  I  took  a  fly  with 
my  brothers  Charlemagne  and  Louis  Martin.  The 
crowd  was  so  large  in  the  streets  that  it  was  close  upon 
nine  o'clock  before  we  reached  the  Place  de  la  Revolu- 
tion. Gros  and  Barre,  my  assistants,  had  erected  the 
guillotine,  and  I  was  so  persuaded  that  it  would  not  be 
used  that  I  hardly  looked  at  it.  My  brothers  were  well 
armed,  and  so  was  I ;  under  our  coats  we  had,  besides 
our  swords,  daggers,  four  pistols,  and  a  flask  of 
powder,  and  our  pockets  were  full  of  bullets.  We 
felt  sure  that  some  attempt  would  be  made  to  rescue 
the  King,  and  we  intended,  if  we  could,  to  assist  in 
saving  his  life. 

'When  we  reached  the   Place  T  looked   about  for 



my  son,  and  I  discovered-  him  at  a  short  distance  with 
his  battalion.  He  nodded,  and  seemed  to  encourage 
me.  I  listened  intently  for  some  indication  as  to  what 
was  about  to  occur.  I  rejoiced  at  the  thought  that  the 
King  had  perhaps  been  rescued  on  the  way,  and  that 
he  was  already  beyond  the  reach  of  danger.  As,  however, 
my  eyes  were  bent  in  the  direction  of  the  Madeleine,  I 
suddenly  espied  a  body  of  cavalry  which  was  coming  up 
at  a  trot,  and,  immediately  after  it,  a  carriage  drawn  by 
two  horses  and  surrounded  by  a  double  row  of  horse- 
men followed.  No  doubt  could  now  exist ;  the  victim 
was  at  hand.  My  sight  became  dim,  and  I  looked  at  my 
son  ;  he  also  was  deadly  pale. 

*The  carriage  stopped  at  the  foot  of  the  scaffold. 
The  King  was  sitting  on  the  back  seat  on  the  right ; 
next  to  him  was  his  confessor,  and  on  the  front  seat  two 
gendarmes.  The  latter  came  down  first ;  then  the  priest 
stepped  out,  and  he  was  directly  followed  by  the  King, 
who  appeared  even  more  collected  and  calm  than  when 
I  saw  him  at  Versailles  and  in  the  Tuileries. 

*  As  he  approached  the  steps  of  the  scaffold  I  cast  a 
last  glance  around.  The  people  were  silent,  the  drums 
were  sounding,  and  not  the  slightest  sign  of  a  rescue 
being  at  hand  was  given.  Charlemagne  was  as 
troubled  as  I  was  ;  as  to  my  brother  Martin,  he  was 
younger  and  had  more  firmness.  He  advanced  respect- 
fully, took  off  his  hat,  and  told  the  King  that  he  must 
take  his  coat  off. 

* "  There  is  no  necessity,'*  answered  he  ;  "  despatch 
me  as  I  am  now." 


'  My  brother  insisted,  and  added  that  it  was  indis- 
pensably necessary  to  bind  his  hands. 

'  This  last  observation  moved  him  greatly.  He 
reddened,  and  exclaimed,  "What!  would  you  dare  to 
touch  me  ?  Here  is  my  coat,  but  do  not  lay  a  finger  on 

'  After  saying  this  he  took  off  his  coat.  Charlemagne 
came  to  Martin's  assistance,  and,  scarcely  knowing  how 
to  address  the  illustrious  victim,  he  said  in  a  cold  tone, 
which  could  hardly  conceal  his  profound  emotion,  "  It  is 
absolutely  necessary.  The  execution  cannot  proceed 

'  In  my  turn  I  interfered,  and  bending  to  the  ear  of 
the  priest,  "  Monsieur  TAbbe,"  I  said,  "  ask  the  King  to 
submit.  While  I  tie  his  hands  we  can  gain  time,  and 
perhaps  some  assistance  may  be  forthcoming." 

'  The  abbe  looked  sadly  and  eagerly  in  my  face,  and 
then  addressing  the  King  :  "  Sire,"  said  he,  "  submit  to 
this  last  sacrifice,  which  shall  make  you  look  more  like 
our  Saviour." 

*  The  King  held  out  his  hands,  while  his  confessor 
was  presenting  a  crucifix  to  his  lips.  Two  assistants 
tied  the  hands  which  had  wielded  a  sceptre.  He  then 
ascended  the  steps  of  the  scaffold,  supported  by  the 
worthy  priest.  "Are  these  drums  going  to  sound  for 
ever?"  he  said  to  Charlemagne.  On  reaching  the  plat- 
form, he  advanced  to  the  side  where  the  crowd  was  the 
thickest,  and  made  such  an  imperative  sign  that  the 
drummers  stopped  for  a  moment. 

'  "  Frenchmen ! "    he   exclaimed,   in  a  strong  voice, 


"  you  see  your  King  ready  to  die  for  you.  May  my 
blood  cement  your  happiness  !  I  die  innocent  of  what 
I  am  charged  with ! " 

*  He  was  about  to  continue  when  Santerre,  who  was 
at  the  head  of  his  staff,  ordered  the  drummers  to  beat, 
and  nothing  more  could  be  heard. 

*  In  a  moment  he  was  bound  to  the  weigh-plank,  and 
a  few  seconds  afterwards,  while  under  my  touch  the  knife 
was  sliding  down,  he  could  still  hear  the  voice  of  the 
priest  pronouncing  these  words  : 

*  "  Son  of  Saint-Louis,  ascend  to  Heaven  !" 

*  Thus  died  the  unfortunate  prince,  who  might  have 
been  saved  by  a  thousand  well  armed  men  ;  and  really 
I  am  at  loss  to  understand  the  notice  which  I  received 
the  day  before  the  execution,  that  some  attempt  at  rescue 
was  to  be  made.  The  slightest  signal  would  have  been 
sufficient  to  cause  a  diversion  in  his  favour  ;  for  if  when 
Gros,  my  assistant,  showed  the  King's  head  to  the 
multitude  some  cries  of  triumph  were  uttered,  the 
greater  part  of  the  crowd  turned  away  with  profound 

Such  is  the  account  which  my  grandfather  left  us  of 
the  death  of  Louis  XVI.  It  is  in  conformity  with  the 
letter  which  he  had  the  courage  to  write  to  the  *  Ther- 
mometre  du  Jour,'  to  correct  some  erroneous  allegations 
contained  in  that  paper. 

The  narrative  I  have  just  given  essentially  differs 
from  that  of  M.  de  Lamartine  in  his  'Histoire  des 
Girondins  ; '  but,  however  great  may  be  the  authority  of 
the  eminent  historian,  his  account  cannot,  for  accuracy, 


be  compared  with  my  grandfather's.  He  has  seen  fit  to 
represent  Charles  Henri  as  speaking  contemptuously  to 
the  King,  and  even  raising  his  hand  to  strike  him.  This 
is  a  gross  fabrication,  and  I  need  not  take  the  trouble 
to  show  its  absurdity. 






\_Novemher,  1875. 

^  Hist  tsi  Boolts 




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Works  of  William  Blake,  including  the  "  Songs  of  Innocence  and  Experience," 

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"The  Marriage  of  Heaven  and  Hell,"  "  Europe,  a  Prophecy,"   "Jerusalem," 

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of   Blair's    'Grave.'    He  paints  in   water-colours  marvellous  strange  pictures — 

visions  of  his  brain — which  he  asserts  he  has   seen.     They  have  great  merit.     I 

must  look  upon  him  as  one  of  the  most  extraordinary  persons  of  the  age."— Charles 


BLANCHARD'S  (Laman)  POEMS.    Now  first  Collected.    Edited, 

with  a  Life  of  the  Author  (including  numerous  hitherto  unpublished  Letters  from 
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BOCCACCIO'S    DECAMERON;   or,   Ten  Days'   Entertainment. 

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*„,*  This  national  work  on  ancient  architecture  occupied  its  author,  in  drawing, 

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declared  it  to  be  the  result  of  his  studies  through  life. 




IN  ENGLAND,  from  the  Earliest  Period  to  the  Reign  of  Henry  VIII.;  con- 
sisting of  Statues,  Basso-rehevos,  Sculptures,  &c..  Brasses,  Monumental  Effigies 
Paintings  on  Glass  and  on  Walls  ;  Missal  Ornaments  ;  Carvings  on  Cups,  Croziers' 
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written  during  Eight  Years  of  Travel  and  Adventure  among  the  Wildest  and  most 
Remarkable  Tribes  now  existing.  Containing  360  Coloured  Engravings  from  the 
Author's  original  Paintings.  Two  Vols.,  imperial  Svo,  Cloth  extra,  gilt,  the  Plates 
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"  One  of  the  most  admirable  observers  of  manners  who  ever  lived  among  the 
aborigines  of  America." — Humboldt's  Cosmos. 


taining  Hunting  Scenes,  Amusements,  Scenery,  and  Costume  of  the  Indians  of 
the  Rocky  Mountains  and  Prairies  of  America,  from  Drawings  and  Notes  made 
by  the  Author  during  Eight  Years' Travel.  A  series  of  31  magnificent  Plates, 
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THE  GREAT  MASTERS  in  the  Royal  Collection.  Engraved  by  Bartolozzi 
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ATTICUS.  Translated  by  Melmoth  and  Heberden.  With  Life  of  Cicero  by 
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•'  Cicero  is  the  type  of  a  perfect  letter- writer,  never  boring  you  with  moral  es.say. 
out  of  season,  always  evincing  his  mastery  over  his  art  by  the  most  careful  con 
sideration  for  your  patience  and  amusement.  We  should  rifle  the  volumes  of  anti- 
quity in  vain  to  find  a  letter-writer  who  converses  on  paper  so  naturally,  so 
engagingly,  so  much  from  the  heart  as  Cicero." — Qnarterly  Review. 

CLAUDE'S  LIBER  VERITATIS.  A  Collection  of  303  Prints 
after  the  Original  Designs  of  Claude.  Engraved  by  Richard  Earlom.  With 
a  descriptive  Catalogue  of  each  Print,  Lists  of  the  Persons  for  whom,  and  the  Places 
for  which,  the  original  Pictures  were  first  painted,  and  of  the  present  Possessors 
of  most  of  them.  London :  published  by  Messrs.  Boydell  and  Co.,  Cheapside. 
Printed  by  W.  Bulmer  and  Co.,  Cleveland  Row,  1777.  Three  Vols,  folio,  half- 
morocco  extra,  gilt  edges,  £10  ^os. 

CLAUDE,  BEAUTIES  OF,  containing  24  of  his  choicest  Land- 
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Biographical  Sketch  and  Portrait.     Royal  folio,  in  a  portfolio,  £i  5^. 


COLLINS'  (WHkie)  NOVELS.  New  Illustrated  Library  Editions, 
price  6j.  each,  with  Frontispiece  and  several  full-page  Illustrations  in  each 
Volume  :— 

The  Woman  in  White.  Il- 
lustrated by  Sir  John  Gilbert  and 

F.  A.  Fraser. 

Antonina;  or,  The  Fall  of 
Rome.  Illustrated  by  Sir  John  Gil- 
bert and  Alfred  Concanen. 

Basil.  Illustrated  by  Sir  John 
Gilbert  and  M.  F.  Mahoney. 

The  Dead  Secret.  Illustrated 
by     Sir    John     Gilbert    and    H. 


The  Queen  of  Hearts.  Illus- 
trated by  Sir  John  Gilbert  and 
Alfred  Concanen. 

The  Moonstone.    Illustrated  by 

G.  Du  Maurier  and  F.  A.  Fraser. 
Man  and  Wife,     Illustrated  by 

William  Small. 
Miss   or  Mrs.  ?     Illustrated  by 
S.  L.  FiLDES  and  Henry  Woods. 

Hide  and  Seek ;  or,  The  Mys- 
tery of  Mary  Grice.  Illustrated  by 
Sir  John  Gilbert  and  M.  F.  Ma- 

Poor  Miss  Finch.  Illustrated 
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ward Hughes. 

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by    G.    Du    Maurier    and    M.    F. 

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ney Hall. 

''  The  greatest  master  the  sensational  novel  has  ever  known." — World. 

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COTMAN'S     LIBER    STUDIORUM.     A   Series  of   Landscape 

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COWPER'S  POETICAL  WORKS.  Including  his  Translation  of 
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inning  of  the  Iliad — lines  ending  with  '  Dread  sounding-bounding  in  the  silver 
"  ?  " — Charles  Lamb,  in  a  Letter  to  Coleridge. 

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to  the  Present  Time,  with  Illustrations.     Crown  8vo,  cloth  extra,  gilt,  75.  td. 

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CRUIKSHANK  AT  HOME.  Tales  and  Sketches  'by  the 
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CUSSANS'  HANDBOOK  OF  HERALDRY.     With  Instructions 

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*^*  A  n  entirely  new  History  of  this  important  County,  great  attention  being 
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CUVIER'S  ANIMAL  KINGDOM,  arranged  after  its  Organiza- 
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CYCL0P-S3DIA  OF  COSTUME  ;  or,  A  Dictionaryof  Dress— Regal, 
Ecclesiastical,  Civil,  and  Military—from  the  Earliest  Period  in  England  to  the 
reign  of  George  the  Third.  Including  Notices  of  Contemporaneous  Fashions  on 
the  Continent,  and  preceded  by  a  General  History  of  the  Costumes  of  the  Princi- 
pal Countries  of  Europe.  By  J.  R.  Planch 6,  Somerset  Herald.  To  be  Com- 
pleted in  Twenty-four  Parts,  quarto,  at  Five  Shillings  each,  profusely  illustrated 
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sent  upon  application.  [/«  course  of  ptiblication. 

"There  is  no  subject  connected  with  dress  with  which  '  Somerset  Herald'  is  not 
as  familiar  as  ordinary  men  are  with  the  ordinary  themes  of  everyday  life.  The 
gathered  knowledge  of  many  years  is  placed  before  the  world  in  this  his  latest 
work,  and  when  finished,  there  will  exist  no  work  on  the  subject  half  so  valuable. 
The  numerous  illustrations  are  all  effective— for  their  accuracy  the  author  is  respon- 
sible ;  they  are  well  drawn  and  well  engraved,  and,  while  indispensable  to  a  proper 
comprehension  of  the  text,  are  satisfactory  as  works  of  2iX\."—Art  Journal. 

"  These,  the  first  numbers  of  a  Cyclopaedia  of  Ancient  and  Modern  Costume,  give 
promise  that  the  work,  when  complete,  will  be  one  of  the  most  perfect  works  ever 
published  upon  the  subject.  The  illustrations  are  numerous  and  excellent,  and 
would,  even  without  the  letterpress,  render  the  work  an  invaluable  book  of  reference 
for  information  as  to  costumes  for  fancy  balls  and  character  quadrilles." — Standard. 
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"Beautifully  printed  and  superbly  i\\ViSiva.tc6i"— Standard,  second  notice. 

D'ARBLAY'S  (Madame)    DIARY    AND    LETTERS.     Edited 
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DICKENS'   LIFE  AND  SPEECHES.     Royal  i6mo,  cloth  extra, 

DISCOUNT  TABLES,  on  a  new  and  simple  plan  ;  to  facilitate  the 
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AMERICA  IN  1875.     2  vols,  demy  8vo,  cloth  extra,  30J. 
DON  QUIXOTE  :    A    Revised   Translation,    based  upon   those  of 

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Por  Miguel  de  Cervantes  Saavedra.    Complete  in  One  Volume,  post  Svo, 

nearly  700  pages,  cloth  extra,  price  4.y.  6d. 


Containing,  in  150  beautifully  Coloured  Plates,  upwards  of  600  Exotic  Insects  of 
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DUNLOP'S    HISTORY    OF    FICTION:    Being  a   Critical  and 

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Earliest  Greek  Romances  to  the  Novels  of  the  Present  Day,  with  General  Index. 
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DUNRA YEN'S  (Earl  of)  THE  GREAT  DIVIDE  :  A  Narrative 
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The  following  are  just  ready  : — The  Complete  Works  of  Giles  Fletcher, 

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Their  History,  Value,  and  Properties  ;  with  Simple  Tests  for  ascertaining  their 
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■pAIRHOLT,— TOBACCO  :    Its    History    and   Associations;    in- 

^  eluding  an  Account  of  the  Plant  and  its  Manufacture  ;  with  its  Modes  of  Use 
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FIGUIER'S  PRIMITIVE  MAN  :  A  Popular  Manual  of  the  pre- 
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John  Lubbock,  Huxley,  E.  B.  Tylor,  and  other  eminent  Ethnologists.  Trans- 
lated from  the  last  French  edition,  and  revised  by  E.  B.  T.  With  263  Illustra- 
tions.   Demy  8vo,  cloth  extra,  gilt,  gs. 

"  An  interesting  and  essentially  popular  resum^  of  all  that  has  been  written  on 
the  subject.  M.  Figuier  has  collected  together  the  evidences  which  modern  re- 
searches have  accumulated,  and  has  done  this  with  a  considerable  amount  of  care. 
He  endeavours  to  separate  the  inquiry  respecting  Primitive  Man  from  the  Mosaic 
account  of  Man's  creation,  and  does  not  admit  that  the  authority  of  Holy  Writ  is  in 
any  way  questioned  by  those  labours  which  aim  at  seeking  the  real  epoch  of  Man's 
first  appearance  upon  earth.  .  .  .  An  interesting  book,  with  26^  illustrations,  of 
which  thirty  are  full-page  engravings,  confessedly  somewhat  fanciful  in  their  com- 
binations, but  which  will  be  found  on  examination  to  be  justified  by  that  soundest  evi- 
dence ,  the  actual  discovery  of  the  obj  ects  of  which  they  represent  the  use. " — A  theNtrum. 

FINGER-RING  LORE :  Historical  and  Anecdotal.    By  William 

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Countries.    Crown  8vo,  cloth  extra,  gilt,  ^s.  6d.  [In  the  press. 


FINISH  TO  LIFE  IN  AND  OUT  OF  LONDON ;  or,  The  Final 

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Illustrations.    Thick  crown  8vo,  cloth  extra,  gilt,  12^.  6^. 

FOX'S  BOOK  OF  MARTYRS:  The  Acts  and  Monuments  of  the 
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Three  Vols.,  imperial  8yo,  cloth  extra,  £2.  -lis.  td. 

^^    A  New  Edition,  revised  and  enlarged  by  E.  H.  Bunbury.     With  a  large 

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READERS.  By  Caroline  M.  Gemmer  (Gerda  Fay).  With  numerous  Illus- 
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GEMS  OF  ART  :  A  Collection  of  36  Engravings,  after  Paintings  by 
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&c.    Folio,  in  Portfolio,  £t.  iij.  td. 

GENIAL  SHOWMAN ;  or,  Show  Life  in  the  New  World.  Ad- 
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Third  Edition.     Crown  Svo,  Illustrated  by  W.  Brunton,  cloth  extra,  75.  6d. 

GIBBON'S  ROMAN  EMPIRE  (The  Decline  and  Fall  of  the). 

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GILBERT'S  (W.  S.)  DRAMATIC  WORKS  (*' A  Wicked  World," 
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GILLRAY'S  CARICATURES.  Printed  from  the  Original  Plates, 
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Humorous  Satires  of  the  Reign  of  George  the  Third,  in  upwards  of  600  highly 
spirited  Engravings.  Atlas  folio,  half-morocco  extra,  gilt  edges,  £■]  xos. — There 
is  also  a  Volume  of  the  Suppressed  Plates,  atlas  folio,  half-morocco,  31^.  dd. — 
Also,  a  Volume  of  Letterpress  Descriptions,  comprising  a  very  amusing 
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R.  H.  Evans.  Demy  Svo,  cloth  extra,  15^.  ;  or  half-morocco,  :^i  xs. 
GILLRAY,  THE  CARICATURIST  :  The  Story  of  his  Life  and 
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Wright,  Esq.,  M.A.,  F.S.A.  With  83  full-page  Plates,  and  numerous  Wood 
Engravings.     Demy  4to,  600  pages,  cloth  extra,  31J.  6d. 

"  High  as  the  expectations  excited  by  this  description  [in  the  Introduction]  may 
be,  they  will  not  be  disappointed.  The  most  inquisitive  or  exacting  reader  will 
find  ready  gathered  to  his  hand,  without  the  trouble  of  reference,  almost  every 
scrap  of  narrative,  anecdote,  gossip,  scandal,  or  epigram,  in  poetry  or  prose,  that  he 
can  possibly  require  for  the  elucidation  of  the  caricatures." — Quarterly  Review. 
GLEIG'S  CHELSEA  PENSIONERS  :  Saratoga,  the  Rivals,  and 
other  Stories.  By  the  Rev.  G.  R.  Gleig,  late  Chaplain  to  Her  Majesty's  Forces. 
Post  8yo,  illustrated  boards,  2^. 


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CLERICAL  ANECDOTES:   Humours  of  "the  Cloth." 


With  an  Introduction  by  George  Augustus  Sala. 
HOOD'S  WHIMS  AND   ODDITIES.     Both  Series  Complete  in 

One  Volume,  with  all  the  original  Illustrations. 
JESSE'S     (Edward)     SCENES    AND     OCCUPATIONS     OP 

COUNTRY  LIFE  ;  with  Recollections  of  Natural  History. 

LAMB'S  ESSAYS  OF  ELIA.     Both  Series  Complete  in  One  Vol. 

LEIGH  HUNT'S  ESSAYS  :  A  Tale  for  a  Chimney  Comer,  and 
other  Pieces.    With  Portrait,  and  Introduction  by  Edmund  Ollier. 

MALLORY'S  (Sir  Thomas)  MORT  D'ARTHUR :  The  Stories  of 

King  Arthur  and  of  the  Knights  of  the  Round  Table.  Edited  by  B.  M.  Ranking.. 
PASCAL'S  PROVINCIAL  LETTERS.    A  New  Translation,  with, 

Historical  Introduction  and  Notes,  by  T.  M'Crie,  D.D.,  LL.D. 
POPE'S  COMPLETE  POETICAL  WORKS.     Reprinted  from  the 

Original  Editions. 

TIONS.    With  Notes,  and  an  Introductory  Essay  by  Sainte-Beuve. 

COTTAGE.     Edited,  with  Life,  by  the  Rev.  E.  Clarke. 

by  Leigh  Hunt. 

SHELLEY'S  LATER  POEMS :  Laon  and  Cythna,  &c. 


PAPERS,  &c. 
SHELLEY'S  PROSE  WORKS,  including  A  Refutation  of  Deism, 

Zastrozzi,  St.  Irvyne,  &c. 


with  additions,  by  Thomas  Brown,  F.L.S. 

GOLDEN  TREASURY  OF  THOUGHT.     An  Encyclopcedia  ot 

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Theodore  Taylor.     Crown  8vo,  cloth  gilt,  and  gilt  edges,  7J.  f^d. 

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GOSSE  (Edmund  W.)— KING  ERIE:  A  Tragedy.  Crown  8vo, 
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"Mr.  Edmund  W.  Gossehas  in  the  press  a  dramatic  poem  founded  on  that  part 

of  the  '  Knytlingasaga '  which  treats  of  the  voluntary  exile  and  death  of  King  Erie 

Eiegod . ' ' — A  ca  demy. 

GRAMMONT  (Count),  MEMOIRS  OF.  By  Anthony  Hamil- 
ton. A  New  Edition,  with  a  Biographical  Sketch  of  Count  Hamilton,  numerous 
Historical  and  Illustrative  Notes  by  Sir  Walter  Scott,  and  64  Copperplate 
Portraits  by  Edward  Scriven.    8vo,  cloth  extra,  15*, 


GREENWOOD'S  (James)  LOW-LIFE  DEEPS  :  An  Account  of 
the  Strange  Fish  to  be  found  there  ;  including  "The  Man  and  Dog  Fight,"  with 
much  additional  and  confirmatory  evidence  ;  "With  a  Tally-Man,"  "A  Fallen 
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tint  by  Alfred  Concanen.     Crown  8vo,  cloth  extra,  gilt,  -js.  6d.      {In  the  press. 

GREENWOOD'S  WILDS  OF  LONDON  ;  Descriptive  Sketches 
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Places  in  London.  By  James  Greenwood,  the  "Lambeth  Casual."  With  12 
Tinted  Illustrations  by  Alfred  Concanen.  Crown  8vo,  cloth  extra,  gilt,  7^.  6</, 
"  Mr.  James  Greenwood  presents  himself  once  more  in  the  character  of '  one  whose 
delight  it  is  to  do  his  humble  endeavour  towards  exposing  and  extirpating  social 
abuses  and  those  hole-and-corner  evils  which  afflict  society.'  " — Sahtrdav  Review. 

GREVILLE'S  CRYPTOGAMIC  FLORA.     Comprising  the  Prin- 
cipal Species  found  in  Great  Britain,  inclusive  of  all  the  New  Species  recently 
discovered  in  Scotland.    Six  Vols.,  royal  8vo,  with  360  beautifully  Coloured  Plates, 
half-morocco,  gilt,  £j  -js.  ;  the  Plates  uncoloured,  £4  14s.  6d. 
"  A  truly  admirable  work,  which  may  be  honestly  designated  as  so  excellent,  that 

nothing  can  be  found  to  compete  with  it  in  the  whole  range  of  Indigenous  Botany ; 

whether  we  consider  the  importance  of  its  critical  discussions,    the  accuracy  of  the 

drawings,  the  minuteness  of  the  analyses,  or  the  unusual  care  which  is  evident  in 

the  publishing  department." — Loudon. 

GRIMM.— GERMAN  POPULAR  STORIES.  Collected  by  the 
Brothers  Grimm,  and  Translated  by  Edgar  Taylor.  Edited,  with  an  Introduc- 
tion, by  John  Ruskin.  With  22  Illustrations  after  the  inimitable  designs  of 
George  Cruikshank.  Both  Series  Complete.  Square  crown  Svo,  6s.  6d.  ;  gilt 
leaves,  ^s.  6d. 

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of  a  class  precisely  parallel  in  elevation  to  the  character  of  the  tales  which  they 
illustrate  ;  and  the  original  etchings,  as  I  have  before  said  in  the  Appendix  to  my 
'  Elements  of  Drawing,'  were  unrivalled  in  masterfulness  of  touch  since  Rembrandt 
(in  some  qualities  of  delineation,  unrivalled  even  by  him) To  make  some- 
what enlarged  copies  of  them,  looking  at  them  through  a  magnifying  glass,  and 
never  putting  two  lines  where  Cruikshank  has  put  only  one,  would  be  an  exercise  in 
decision  and  severe  drawing  which  would  leave  afterwards  little  to  be  learnt  in 
schools." — Extract  from.  Introduction  by  John  Ruskin. 

GUYOT'S  EARTH  AND  MAN  ;  or,  Physical  Geography  in  its 
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Pierce,  and  Gray.  With  12  Maps  and  Engravings  on  Steel,  some  Coloured, 
and  a  copious  Index.   A  New  Edition.    Crown  Svo,  cloth  extra,  gilt,  45.  (>d. 

TTAKE'S    (T.   GORDON)  NEW   SYMBOLS :   Poems.     By  the 
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bright." — Blackwood's  Magazine. 

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Plates  of  the  Hall-marks  of  the  different  Assay  Towns  of  the  Kingdom,     ^s.  6d. 

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Additions,  by  J.  O.  Westwood.  With  about  400  exquisitely  Coloured  Figures  of 
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Portraits  of  Wilkie,  Keats,  Leigh  Hunt,  and  Maria  Footk,  Sketched  by  him 
in  his  Journals.  [Iniht/ress 

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German  by  George  Bancroft,  and  various  Oxford  Scholars.     Six  Vols.,  8vo, 

cloth  extra,  £i  i6s.  ;  or,  separately,  6s.  per  volume. 

***  The  Co7itents  of  the  Volumes  are  as  JoUozvs '.—Yols.  i  and  2.  Historical 
Researches  into  the  Politics,  Intercourse,  and  Trade  of  the  Ancient  Nations 
of  Asia ;  3.  Researches  into  the  Politics,  Intercourse,  and  Trade  of  the  Ancient 
Nations  of  Africa,  including  the  Carthaginians,  Ethiopians,  and  Egyptians;  4.  His- 
tory of  the  Political  System  of  Europe  and  its  Colonies  ;  5.  History  of  Ancient 
Greece,  with  Historical  Treatises ;  6.  A  Manual  of  Ancient  History,  with  special 
reference  to  the  Constitutions,  Commerce,  and  Colonies  of  the  States  of  Antiquity. 

"  Prof.  Heeren's  Historical  Researches  stand  in  the  very  highest  rank  among  those 
-with  which  modern  Germany  has  enriched  European  Y\X.&ra.X.\xvQ."— Quarterly  Review 

"  We  look  upon  Heeren  as  having  breathed  a  new  life  into  the  dry  bones  of 
Ancient  History.  In  countries,  the  history  of  which  has  been  too  imperfectly 
known  to  afford  lessons  of  political  wisdom,  he  has  taught  us  still  more  interesting 
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a.  penetrating  pathos,  gives  character  to  much  of  their  sentiment,  and  lends  it  an 
irresistible  interest  to  all  who  can  feel." — Standard. 


Three  Vols.,  8vo,  with  numerous  highly  finished  Line  and  Wood  Engravings  by 
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MAYHEW'S  LONDON  CHARACTERS:  Illustrations  of  the 
Humour,  Pathos,  and  Peculiarities  of  London  Life.  By  Henry  Mayhew, 
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nearly  100  graphic  Illustrations  by  W.  S.  Gilbert  and  others.  Crown  8vo,  cloth 
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"  Well  fulfils  the  promise  of  its  title.    .    .    The  book  is  an  eminently  interesting 

one,  and  will  probably  attract  many  readers." — Court  Circular. 


comprising  Painted  Greek  Vases,  Statues,  Busts,  Bas-Rellefs,  and  other  Remains 
of  Grecian  Art.  62  beautiful  Engravings,  mostly  Coloured,  with  Letterpress 
Descriptions.     Imperial  4to,  half-morocco,  £i,  li^s.  td. 


ARMS  AND  ARMOUR.  154  highly  finished  Etchings  of  the  Collection  at 
Goodrich  Court,  Herefordshire,  engraved  by  Joseph  Skelton,  with  Historical 
and  Critical  Disquisitions  by  Sir  S.  R.  Meyrick.  Two  Vols.,  imperial  410,  witk 
Portrait,  half-morocco  extra,  gilt  edges,  £i,  14J.  (id. 



ARMS  AND  ARMOUR:  A  Critical  Inquiry  into  Ancient  Armour  as  it  existed 
in  Europe,  but  particularly  in  England,  from  the  Norman  Conquest  to  the  Reign  of 
Charles  II.  ;  with  a  Glossary,  by  Sir  S.  R.  Meyrick.  New  and  greatly  improved 
Edition,  corrected  throughout  by  the  Author,  with  the  assistance  of  Albert  Way 
and  others.  Illustrated  by  more  than  loo  Plates,  splendidly  Illuminated  in  gold 
and  silver  ;  also  an  additional  Plate  of  the  Tournament  of  Locks  and  Keys.  Three 
Vols.,  imperial  4to,  half-morocco  extra,  gilt  edges,  ;^io  xos. 

•'While  the  splendour  of  the  decorations  of  this  work  is  well  calculated  to  excite 
curiosity,  the  novel  character  of  its  contents,  the  very  curious  extracts  from  the  rare 
MSS.  in  which  it  abounds,  and  the  pleasing  manner  in  which  the  author's  anti- 
quarian researches  are  prosecuted,  will  tempt  many  who  take  up  the  book  in  idleness, 
to  peruse  it  with  care.  No  previous  work  can  be  compared,  in  point  of  extent, 
arrangement,  science,  or  utility,  with  the  one  now  in  question,  ist.  It  for  the  first 
time  supplies  to  our  schools  of  art,  correct  and  ascertained  data  for  costume,  in  its 
noblest  and  most  important  branch — historical  painting.  2nd.  It  affords  a  simple, 
clear,  and  most  conclusive  elucidation  of  a  great  number  of  passages  in  our  great 
dram-atic  poets— ay,  and  in  the  works  of  those  of  Greece  and  Rome— against  which 
commentators  and  scholiasts  have  been  trying  their  wits  for  centuries.  3rd.  It 
throws  a  flood  of  light  upon  the  manners,  usages,  and  sports  of  our  ancestors,  from 
the  time  of  the  Anglo-Saxons  down  to  the  reign  of  Charles  the  Second.  And  lastly 
it  at  once  removes  a  vast  number  of  idle  traditions  and  ingenious  fables,  which  one 
compiler  of  history,  copying  from  another,  has  succeeded  in  transmitting  through 
the  lapse  of  four  or  five  hundred  years. 

"  It  is  not  often  the  fortune  of  a  painful  student  of  antiquity  to  conduct  his  readers 
through  so  splendid  a  succession  of  scenes  and  events  as  those  to  which  Dr.  Meyrick 
here  successively  introduces  us.  But  he  does  it  with  all  the  ease  and  gracefulness 
of  an  accomplished  cicerone.  We  see  the  haughty  nobles  and  the  impetuous  knights 
— we_  are  present  at  their  arming — assist  them  to  their  shields — enter  the  well- 
appointed  lists  with  them — and  partake  the  hopes  and  fears,  the  perils,  honours,  and 
successes  of  the  manly  tournaments.  Then  we  are  presented  to  the  glorious  damsels, 
all  superb  and  lovely,  in  '  velours  and  clothe  of  golde  and  dayntie  devyces,  bothe  in 
pearls  and  emerawds,  sawphires  and  dymondes,'—  and  the  banquet,  with  the  serving 
men  and  bucklers,  servitors  and  trenchers — kings  and  queens — pageants,  &c.  &c. 
We  feel  as  if  the  age  of  chivalry  had  returned  in  all  its  g\ovy ." —Edinburgh  Review. 

MILTON'S  COMPLETE  WORKS,  Prose  and  Poetical.     With  an 

Introductory  Essay  by  Robert  Fletcher.  Imp.  8vo,  with  Portraits,  cl.  extra,  i$s. 
_  "  It  is  to  be  regretted  that  the  prose  writings  of  Milton  should,  in  our  time,  be  so 
little  read.  As  compositions,  they  deserve  the  attention  of  every  man  who  wishes  to 
become  acquainted  with  the  full  power  of  the  English  language.  They  abound 
with  passages  compared  with  which  the  finest  declamations  of  Burke  sink  into 
insignificance.  They  are  a  perfect  field  of  cloth  of  gold.  The  style  is  stiff  with 
gorgeous  enibroidery.  Not  even  in  the  earlier  books  of  the  '  Paradise  Lost*  has  the 
great  poet  ever  risen  higher  than  in  those  jjarts  of  his  controversial  works  in  which 
his  feelings,  excited  by  conflict,  find  a  vent  in  bursts  of  devotional  and  lyric  rapture. 
It  is,  to  borrow  his  own  majestic  language,  'a  sevenfold  chorus  of  hallelujahs  and 
harping  symphonies.'  " — Macaulay. 

MITFORD'S    (Mary  Russell)    COUNTRY    STORIES.      With 

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MONTAGU'S  (Lady  Mary  Wortley)  LETTERS  AND  WORKS. 

Edited  by  Lord  Wharncliffe.      With  important  Additions  and   Corrections, 
derived  from  the  Original  Manuscripts,  and  a  New  Memoir.     Two  Vols.,  8vo, 
with  fine  Steel  Portraits,  cloth  extra,  i8j. 
"I  have  heard  Dr.  Johnson  say  that  he  never  read  but  one  book  through  from 

choice  in  his  whole  life,  and  that  book  was  Lady  Mary  Wortley  Montagu's 

Letters." — Boswell. 

MOSES'  ANTIQUE  VASES,  Candelabra,  Lamps,  Tripods,  Paterae, 
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TO'APOLEON  III.,  THE  MAN  OF  HIS  TIME.     From  Carica- 

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sin,  and  other  great  Masters.  Engraved  by  George  Doo,  John  Burnett, 
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at  the  University  of  Bonn.  Translated  into  English  from  the  Edition  of  Dr.  M. 
IsLER,  by  H.  le  M.  Chepmell,  M.A.,  and  Franz  Demmler,  Ph.D.  Three 
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and  New.  Fitted  to  all  Humours,  having  each  their  proper  Tune  for  either 
Voice  or  Instrument ;  most  of  the  Songs  being  new  set.  London  :  Printed  by 
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ENGLISH  ROGUE  (The),  described  in  the  Life  of  Meriton 
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Airs,  and  Legends  of  the  Adherents  to  the  House  of  Stuart.  Collected  and  Illus* 
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OLD  BOOKS— continued. 

IRELAND     FORGERIES.— Confessions    of   William     Henry 

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JOE  MILLER'S  JESTS  :  The  politest  Repartees,  most  elegant 
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printed  by  T.  Read.    1739.    A  Facsimile  of  Orig.  Edit.    8vo,  half-morocco,  9^.  6d. 

LITTLE  LONDON  DIRECTORY  OF  1677.    The  Oldest  Printed 

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MERRY  DROLLERY,  Complete  ;  or,  a  Collection  of  Jovial  Poems, 
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by  W.N.C.B.R.S.J.C.,  Lovers  of  Wit.  The  two  Parts  in  i  Vol.  A  page-for-page 
and  literal  reprint.  Edited,  with  Indexes  and  Notes,  by  J.  Woodfall  Ebsworth, 
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MUSARUM  DELICIiE  ;  or.  The  Muses'  Recreation,  1656 ;  Wit 
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MYSTERY  OF  THE  GOOD  OLD  CAUSE.  Sarcastic  Notices 
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RUMP  (The)  ;  or.  An  Exact  Collection  of  the  Choicest  Poems  and 
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Anno  1639  to  1661.  A  Facsimile  Reprint  of  the  rare  Original  Edition  (London, 
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WESTMINSTER  DROLLERIES :  Being  a  Choice  Collection  of 
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Person  of  Quality.  Now  first  reprinted  in  exact  Facsimile  from  the  Original 
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BEN  JONSON'S  WORKS.    With  Notes,  Critical  and  Explanatory, 
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Complete  in  Three  Vols.,  crown  8vo,  cloth  extra,  gilt,  with  Portrait,  ds.  each. 

CHAPMAN'S  (George)  COMPLETE  WORKS.  Now  first 
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18^.;  or,  separately,  6 j.  per  vol.  Vol.  I.  contains  the  Plays  complete,  including 
the  doubtful  ones  ;  Vol.  II.  the  Poems  and  Minor  Translations,  with  an  Introduc- 
tory Essay  by  Algernon  Charles  Swinburne;  Vol.  III.  the  Translations  of 
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MARLOWE'S  WORKS.  Including  his  Translations.  Edited, 
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MASSINGER'S   PLAYS.      From   the   Text    of    Wm.    Gifford. 

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QLD  SHEZAKRY'S  FOREST  AND  FIELD :  Life  and  Adven- 

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OLD  SHEKARRY'S  WRINKLES  ;  or,  Hints  to  Sportsmen  and 
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numerous  illustrations,  and  the  book  has  been  excellently  brought  out  by  the  pub- 
lishers. " — Sjiortsman. 

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O'SHAUGHNESSY'S  (Arthur)   AN  EPIC   OF   WOMEN,  and 

other  Poems.     Second  Edition.     Fcap.  8vo,  cloth  extra,  6s. 
O'SHAUGHNESSY'S  LAYS    OF   FRANCE.     (Founded  on  the 

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literature  with  some  of  the  very  best  songs  written  in  our  generation." — Academy. 

PRINTS,  by  the  Early  Masters  of  the  Italian,  German,  and  Flemish  Schools. 

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FoUe  Farine. 

Idalia.     A  Romance. 

Chandos.     A  Novel. 

Under  Two  Flags. 

Cecil  Castlemaine's  Gage. 

Tricotrin.     The  Story  of  a  Waif 

and  Stray. 
Pascardl.     Only  a  Story. 

Held  in  Bondage  ;  or,  Granville 

de  Vigne. 

Puck.     His  Vicissitudes,  Adven- 
tures, &c. 

A  Dog  of  Flanders,  and  other 


Strathmore ;    or,    Wrought    by 

his  Own  Hand. 

Two  Little  Wooden  Shoes . 

Keen  poetic  insight,  an  intense  !ove  of  nature,  a  deep  admiration  of  the  beau- 
tiful in  form  and  colour,  are  the  gifts  of  Quida." — Morning  Post. 

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PARKS    OF    LONDON  :   Their  History,  from  the  Earliest  Period 

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TATIVE ANALYSIS  WITH  THE  BLOWPIPE.  From  the  last  German 
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Academy.  Translated  by  Prof.  H.  B.  Cornwall,  School  of  Mines,  New  York. 
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the  analysis  of  mineral  ores,  but  who,  from  ignorance  of  the  German  language, 
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POE'S    (Edgar    AUan)    CHOICE    PROSE   AND    POETICAL 
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/^UG  251976 




HV  Jfemoirs  of  the  Sansons